HC Deb 06 May 1968 vol 764 c10
6. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Technology if he will take steps to merge the aircraft manufacturing capacity of Beagle Aircraft Limited with Short Brothers and Harland in Belfast.

Mr. Benn

No, Sir. I do not think it would be wise to do so.

Mr. McMaster

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is adequate space for this production to be amalgamated in Belfast and plenty of skilled labour available? Would he not study what economies would result from such a rationalisation? Would it not be sensible for two companies in which the Government have such a large shareholding to rationalise production in this way?

Mr. Benn

I fully understand what lies behind the hon. Gentleman's Question, but, at present, when both firms have considerable management problems and large orders to carry through—Shorts have quite a heavy workload with the RB 211 pods coming along and, in the case of Beagle, there is the early production of their aircraft—it would not be advisable to do this, particularly since there is no duplication of facilities, but co-operation in marketing and so on might be helpful.

Mr. Onslow

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, contrary to the recommendations of the Plowden Report, over all aircraft manufacture there is now a need to increase the labour force rather than deploy people out of it?

Mr. Benn

That is quite a separate question, but it is true that the aircraft industry is doing very well under this Government.