HC Deb 13 July 1967 vol 750 cc1007-8
Q6. Mr. Marten

asked the Prime Minister whether, in his talks on 19th and 20th June with General de Gaulle about the prospects for technological cooperation, he discussed co-operation over the joint manufacture of aircraft; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I have nothing to add to the reports I have already given the House on these discussions which were, of course, confidential.

Mr. Marten

Bearing in mind that when the Prime Minister saw General de Gaulle it was obvious to all, except perhaps the Secretary of State for Defence, that the French were going to cancel the AFVG, is it not almost treating the aircraft industry with complete indifference not to have discussed this fully and frankly with General de Gaulle?

The Prime Minister

There was no question of it being clear to everyone except my right hon. Friend. I discussed this matter with President de Gaulle, as I made clear in answer to a supplementary question last week, and we both agreed that the matter should be further discussed between my right hon. Friend and M. Messmer. It was after those discussions that my right hon. Friend was in a position to say something to the House and the industry.

Mr. Powell

Did the President, however, intimate to the Prime Minister at that time that it would be difficult for France to proceed with the variable geometry project?

The Prime Minister

I have already answered that. He indicated something of the budgetary difficulties affecting this decision, but as to the final decision this should be discussed between the two Defence Ministers.

Mr. Maxwell

Would the Prime Minister agree that the cancellation of the VG project is a serious blow to our helping Europe to bridge the technology gap? Would he further consider telling France that if she persists in making it difficult for our application to the E.E.C. to be considered, we will withdraw some of our offers of technological co-operation?

The Prime Minister

I do not wish to go so far as that. The decision that the House will be debating this afternoon is a matter which will have serious effects for France as well as this country. As for the technology gap, one of the biggest problems is the extent to which French research and development is already over-dependent on American industry, research and development on a scale much greater than ours. That was why I put to General de Gaulle a proposition for more co-operation in civil technology.