HC Deb 29 January 1969 vol 776 cc1310-1
14. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Minister of Technology what proposals he has for further international co-operation in the manufacture of aircraft.

Mr. Benn

Government policy is to support, where appropriate in partnership with others, those aircraft projects which promise to be economic and which will meet established demand. Various proposals are now under consideration.

Mr. Sheldon

Since the number of international projects within the aircraft industry, and in other areas, is almost certain to increase over the next few years, will my right hon. Friend consider the method of control over international projects, which appears at present to be quite inadequate? Although I understand that these things need to be worked out during a period of time, will he not, before making any further contracts, consider issuing in the form of a statement or otherwise information on methods of control, so that we have a chance to make sure that we avoid the bitterness and disillusion which would be an inescapable part of getting this thing wrong?

Mr. Benn

I should like to consider the specific proposal of my hon. Friend. There is also a learning curve in international collaboration; we are learning from our experience. I think that the new arrangements are better than the old, and I hope that in future collaborative projects industry will supply a larger part and the rôle of Governments will be diminished to that of agreeing in the first instance and then supervising the development of the project and watching over the Government investment.

Mr. Fortescue

May we have some clarification of Government policy as expressed this afternoon in the Minister's replies? He has said that the main object of the policy is that the aircraft supported should be viable in the market. Does this mean that an international project would not take precedence over an all-British project if the all-British project had a better chance of being sold?

Mr. Benn

The case for international collaboration is not so much that we need access to the technology of our European partners but that in terms of the likelihood of commanding a good sound home market collaboration helps. Secondly, a number of Governments contributing to the launching aid reduces the totality of our investment and hence our own risk.