HC Deb 16 April 1969 vol 781 cc1143-4
24. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Technology what comparison he has made between man-hour costs in the French aviation industry and that of the United Kingdom, when engaged in projects of mutual concern.

Mr. Benn

My Department keeps closely informed about costs both in the United Kingdom and in partner countries on collaborative projects.

Mr. Hastings

But is the Minister aware that the idea in industry is that costs on the French side are about 1½ times as much as our costs? If that is so, does not it question the whole validity of collaborative projects? Would it not be better for British aircraft firms to negotiate manufacturing agreements wherever they are likely to increase market prospects? Should not that be the real criterion?

Mr. Benn

Of course, any collaborative project carries with it difficulties and sometimes financial penalties. They have to be set against the possibility that the basic market will increase and that research and development can be shared with other Governments. It is difficult to get comparisons of hourly rates and productivity, because accounting conventions and tax arrangements differ. It may be a slight over-simplification to put it as the hon. Gentleman did in his supplementary question.