HC Deb 12 February 1968 vol 758 cc939-40
29. Mr. Bishop

asked the Minister of Technology what action he is taking to encourage greater diversification of those firms seeking to change from defence to civil work, especially in the aircraft industry.

Mr. Benn

A substantial and increasing share of the aircraft industry's resources is already devoted to civil work. The Industrial Expansion Bill, which is now before the House, contains provisions which would enable me to support a shift of resources from defence to civil industries.

Mr. Bishop

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, with the defence cuts, the changing from swords into ploughshares is urgent, and that more might be done to help in under-water techniques, laser projects and even pot and pan projects, if redundancy is to be avoided?

Mr. Benn

Diversification is for the firms concerned but what the Industrial Expansion Bill, if enacted, will do, will be to make it possible for launching aid to be given for civil projects, and not just for aircraft projects as hitherto. Our own establishments would certainly offer advice on this, and I am naturally anxious to see it happen.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Are we to understand from that answer that one of the major objectives of the Industrial Expansion Bill is to make good orders for firms which were meeting defence contracts and whose defence contracts have now been cancelled? We were not told that on Second Reading.

Mr. Benn

Not at all. I repeated what I said on Second Reading. We have the illogical position where we are providing launching aid for aircraft but not for any other advance project, and the fact that we would, under the Bill, if enacted, be able to do this, would help to stimulate diversification.