HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc478-9
3. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Aviation what plans he has for ensuring the profitability of the Beagle Aircraft Company and for promoting its overseas sales.

Mr. Stonehouse

The new board of the Beagle Company will operate the firm as a commercial concern, and my Department will provide every possible assistance in its development.

Mr. Lewis

Does not the Minister agree that the virtual nationalising of this company will mean that his Department carries losses? What does he propose to do about the aircraft already in stock which have not been sold? Would it not be better to leave this to private enterprise so that if it makes a loss at least the taxpayer does not carry it and, if it makes a profit, well and good?

Mr. Stonehouse

The House will have an opportunity during this year to debate this question. The short answer, however, is that private enterprise has failed to remain in the light aircraft field as we should remain. Therefore, the Government felt that we should take this stake in what can be an important developing field.

Mr. R. Carr

Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will apply the same test of economic profitability to the Beagle operations that he has just said must be applied also to Short's?

Mr. Stonehouse

Yes, we are anxious that in the long term Beagle should produce an economic return.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that this company could have been taken over by private companies but that they simply were not interested and that the Government have stepped in to save for Britain a stake in the light aviation industry?

Mr. Stonehouse

That is correct.

17. Mr. Kitson

asked the Minister of Aviation how soon he intends to introduce legislation to implement his decision to purchase the Beagle Aircraft Company.

Mr. Stonehouse

Before the end of this year.

Mr. Kitson

Is it intended to introduce a separate Bill, or does the Minister intend to introduce it as part of the larger merger of B.A.C. and H.S.A.?

Mr. Stonehouse

That depends on the progress that we make on the main negotiations.