HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc476-7
1. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Aviation what Government-sponsored research and development work in the fields of aircraft design and construction and missile design and construction, respectively, have been awarded to Short Brothers and Harland since March, 1966; and how many men he estimates will be employed by this company throughout 1967.

The Minister of Aviation (Mr. John Stonehouse)

During the past ten months five research and development contracts have been awarded to Short's and I will, with permission, circulate details of these in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

I cannot give an exact figure for the workforce expected to be employed throughout this year.

Mr. McMaster

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the anxieties felt by those working in this factory? In view of the Government's responsibility as majority shareholder and also of the many pledges by the Government to do all that they can to alleviate the hardship which is being caused by their economic measures in Northern Ireland, will the Minister undertake to place sufficient production orders with Short Brothers and Harland to maintain employment there during the coming year?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am aware of the great anxiety that is felt and I have discussed this during the last week or so with the chairman and directors of Short's. I cannot, however, give the blanket assurance that is now requested.

Captain Orr

Is the Minister aware that the background to this matter is the fact that unemployment in Northern Ireland has risen from 5.7 per cent. in August to 8 per cent. in the latest figures? Will the Minister realise that what is giving anxiety concerning Short's is that there is no long-term knowledge about the future structure of the company. If he can tell us something soon, we will be glad to know.

Mr. Stonehouse

I am as anxious as the House to give as much information as can be provided, but it is too soon for me to give any long-term assurances about the work that Short's will have during the next few years. An essential aspect must be that the work that Short's take on is economic.

Following are the details: Details of the contracts mentioned above are: Aircraft (1) Continuation of the flight development and research programme for the S.C.1 V.T.O.L. research aircraft. (2) Continuation of the development of an automatic flight control system for V.T.O.L./ S.T.O.L. aircraft. (3)Adaptation of an American-designed target. (4) Conversion of Canberra P.R.3 aircraft for use with target. Guided Weapons A feasibility study for a unit self-defence weapon.
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