§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In respect of the balloted debate which is now about to take place on the aerospace industry, I understand that there is a lighter item that has also been successful in the ballot, dealing with Concorde, but as both of these items appear under the same Vote I understand that it is possible for these two debates to merge together. My point is that, as the balloting for position and subject on the Consolidated Fund Bill is a fairly recent innovation and there appears not to be any established precedent, would it not be true to say that it would be unfortunate if the new procedure of balloting should be damaged by an abuse of running two debates together, albeit that they are in order, to the detriment of other hon. Members who have been successful at an earlier place in the ballot?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker(Miss Harvie Anderson)
I appreciate the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. He is perfectly correct in saying that the Chair could take no exception to the two sub- 574 jects being discussed together, if it were to the agreement of the House, as they both fall within the same Vote. But I would also say that it has been known that subjects falling in this way are taken together by agreement with the House. I think that the hon. Gentleman will accept that. I see his point about the priorities resulting from the procedure of the ballot, but there could be other means—which it would not be proper for me to suggest—whereby hon. Members further down and coming within the same Vote could also so arrange things as to cancel their agreement to go at No. 6 and join in if it were appropriate, as in this case. I take note of the hon. Gentleman's point and I shall see that it is brought to the notice of those concerned.
§ Mr. Wellbeloved
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In your Ruling you used what I consider to be key words—"with the agreement of the House". Does that mean that the running together of debates in what I regard as an abuse of the balloting procedure can be done only with the agreement of the House?
Further, would I be correct in assuming that if the balloting procedure is being brought into disrepute the best thing that hon. Members can do on future occasions is to indulge in a mad scramble and take their chance on catching the eye of the Chair in any debate, irrespective of the order of balloting? Or perhaps, better still, try to get in on the debate on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House?
I appreciate your difficulty Mr. Deputy Speaker, in that there is no clear precedent for this, but surely it is a matter to be deprecated by the Chair when an abuse of a new procedure, that of balloting for position, is about to occur?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I think that the words quoted by the hon. Gentleman, if he reads them in context, will be seen not to mean what he has represented them to mean. On his second point, I should not prejudge the hypothetical situation as he has described it.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not there another side to this issue, namely, that the order of debate is arranged not only for the 575 convenience of the House, but to enable the appropriate Minister to be present to reply to the debate at the appropriate time? If these things get out of predicted sequence, it may mean that the House will not have the appropriate Minister present to reply to the debate. This matter is of some substance to the House as a whole from the point of view of having a Minister present to listen to the debate at a time when he can reasonably expect the debate to take place?
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The subject we are about to debate, being the greater, subsumes the lesser subject in a lower place in the debating order. Nothing can prevent hon. Members who catch the eye of the Chair from speaking about Concorde, and it would be silly if there were to be two debate on the subject.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. E. S. Bishop (Newark)
I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate a matter of great concern to the country from the point of view of those who are interested in Britain's having a stake in the aerospace industry in the future—the manufacturers, the sub-contractors and, of course, most important, the thousands of employees who have a future in the industry.
During the last year my Front Bench colleagues and I have been probing deeply and, I think, responsibly to try to elicit more information from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about his policies. I say from personal experience—and I underline the word personal—that no one can accuse the right hon. Gentleman of the kind of behaviour with regard to Questions recently associated with his colleagues, because my colleagues have tabled dozens of Questions of a helpful and, I think, friendly nature in order to give the Minister a chance to explain and enlighten the House about what he thinks of this vital industry.
576 In some instances we have been brushed aside with a kind of contemptable brevity amounting almost to a breach of Privilege. Tonight we have the chance—and there are many hours before us—to consider this subject in detail. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Gentlemen opposite should laugh. They will recall the Rolls-Royce debate, when the Bill went through the House at four o'clock in the morning. That was important then and this subject is important now.
On the other hand, I speak from the back benches tonight because this is not a major debate, but it is a debate on which we might have taken a whole day. I am not here to make party points, but merely to do some technical probing to help the Minister assure the country that the Government have been thinking about this matter and that some activity is going ahead behind the scenes which will blossom into fully blown and justifiable policies with which to satisfy the country. At this time of the year, with about 25,000 employees having been dismissed from the aircraft industry in the last 12 months, many people are anxious about the future. This uncertainty is doing a great deal of harm to the country.
The Government should not be short of ideas. They must be aware that we have gone from the Brabazon Report to the Plowden Report to the Edwards Report and the Elstub Report, and I understand that there is now a Marshall Report behind the scenes—presumably marshalling the facts for the future. One would have enough to cover a 2,000-yard runway with the helpful evidence which these reports have given. There has been no shortage of ideas on the policies which might be pursued.
No one would expect the Minister, in a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, to put forward elaborate policies which are vital to the industry, so this is an occasion for considering the current situation of an industry which until recently has been employing 212,000 people, apart from the subcontractors, who must number many more.
We believe that, given the right philosophy and the willingness to accept that Britain needs and can have a stake in the aerospace industry of the future, provided that the Government take the 577 initiative and are prepared to get involved in the activities necessary to ensure this, there is no reason why we should not have a much better future than we have had in the last year or two.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has an unrivalled opportunity, with his immense responsibilities, to look at the scene in a comprehensive way. He has overall responsibility for the air corporations, the British Airports Authority, the licensing of civil aviation, the many aspects of the Civil Aviation Bill 1971, the aerospace requirements formerly exercised by the Minister of Technology, research and development, procurement of aircraft and equipment, space projects, missiles, support for the civil airports, sponsorship, and decisions on launching aid and operational research programmes. We also now have the help of the Dainton Report and the Rothschild comments on it. Other aspects are in doubt and should be pronounced upon.
Clearly, we cannot cover all this vast network of activity in this debate, but the House seeks a convincing assurance that the Government are aware of the vital importance of this industry and the problems which beset it at present and that they are anxious to take action to ensure its future viability and reassure the many thousands of people whose lives have been bound up in it for many years.
The areas which I want to probe include the widespread anxieties about the employment prospects of 250,000 workers who are employed in aerospace and in the sub-contractors, a brief reference to the future of Concord—only brief, because my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) will be seeking to probe the cost aspect later in tonight's debate—and the Government's policy on launching aid and on subsonic and space projects. Here again the Government have been helped by the Select Committee's Report, which alone would deserve a long debate.
Certainly V/STOL and other systems have a part to play in the future development of the industry. I will not ask about the Government's thinking on airships. That may be expecting too much at this time, but they should bear that matter in mind.
I am concerned about the HS748, to which I shall refer briefly later. The 578 Government ought to give the House an indication on their thinking about their rôle in the E.E.C. if and when we enter the Community. There is grave anxiety that the Government will not show the initiative which may be expected of them. These are some of the points on which I want to touch this evening.
Most people appreciate that, although we could buy and procure aircraft from other sources—the United States, Europe, and elsewhere—where aircraft can be produced with greater ease and have a greater assurance of guaranteed markets, nevertheless, the skill, experience and knowhow of workers and management are such that we can make a unique contribution to world aviation, given the will. This is what we are concerned about tonight and for the future.
Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. was a commendable but, in some ways, last-minute jettisoning of the Government's political philosophy of everybody standing on their own feet. No one could imagine a more disastrous philosophy being applied to the aircraft industry which in many countries depends upon Government money, research, and other facilities. This has concerned us in the last year. When we realise how interdependent we are on various countries, it is more than ever essential that we have a firm idea of where we want to go.
To illustrate how we can lose control of our industry, I need hardly remind the House of Rolls-Royce, which was in trouble with the RB211, which affected Lockheed and the TriStar. After much debate here and in the United States the United States Government agreed to support Lockheed, and that saved the day. We are grateful for the work which the Government did to ensure this agreement. My hon. Friends and I were in some difficulty in trying to get assurances about the steps which were taken, because we did not wish to say anything which might affect the negotiations. However, the Minister was forthcoming on the matter.
When I was in Brussels in May I met a member of the United States Senate. I asked for his view about the link-up between Rolls-Royce and Lockheed. He said that he was opposed to Congress giving support to Lockheed; if private finance houses in the States would not support the venture, that did not justify 579 Congress using the nation's money for that purpose. Therefore, I knew that he was against it.
When I met him abroad recently, knowing that the vote was carried by 49 to 48 that the United States would clinch the deal by giving support through Congress, I asked him how he voted. He said that he did not go to the meeting on that occasion because he had to attend a family wedding. So we have the prospect that thousands of jobs at Derby and in other parts of the country which were bound up with the future of the RB211, TriStar, our aircraft industry and the viability of the United States industry, depends on some bride getting married in one of the States of America. It may be that that woman has unknowingly done as much as the British and American Governments to save the industry.
I mention this because it shows that we are not always in control of affairs, even if we know where we want to go. When I was speaking in Parliament House in Ottowa recently, I suggested that on these grounds some Members of this House should sit in the United States Congress and the other way round, because our interests are intertwined. Undoubtedly this will apply if and when we join the European Economic Community.
We have seen not only the problems of Rolls-Royce but also the demise of Handley Page, the troubles with th Beagle Aircraft Company, and now the Britten Norman problems, with the receiver appointed and the struggle which is going on to try and keep the firm going. In the last year about 3,000 redundancies have been declared in B.A.C. There are the impending closures and difficulties with Westland Helicopters and Teddington Controls, and many sub-contractors are threatened by this situation.
These casualties are probably not the responsibility of any party or Government, but we can expect them in the situation of an aircraft industry such as this facing the difficulties which are being faced, not only in Britain, but also elsewhere in the world. We know the viability position of the United States airlines. Pan Am and T.W.A. are also threatened. All these are factors to be taken into account.
580 I come now to the unemployment situation. I believe that in the last year there have been about 25,000 jobs fewer in the aircraft industry than there were in 1970. These are problems to be reckoned with. They will grow unless we can give far better guarantees about the future and security of the industry.
Only this evening I have been meeting a deputation of workers from the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (Technical and Supervisory Section) from Woodford in Cheshire. They have put the case for the HS748 as a Royal Air Force pilot trainer replacement and for the maintenance of employment in that area especially as it affects designers.
The delegation, on behalf of members and employees of HS Aviation Manchester, say that they are opposed to theGovernment's intention to purchase as replacement to the Vickers Varsity pilot trainer the 'Jetstream'.They claim thatno Government can, whilst the high rate of unemployment continuesgo ahead with the purchase of an aircraft which is allegedly made with some foreign components and whilst there are other alternatives available in Britain, and they demand the obvious choice for the replacement, being the HS748.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
My understanding is that, if the Jetstream were to be produced for the Royal Air Force, it would first be produced at Prestwick, which would be of great benefit to that area with its problems. Further, if a substantial order were to be forthcoming, there is good reason to believe that Rolls-Royce might even produce the engines in this country as well. I think that we should accept that, whichever of these projects is taken on for the Royal Air Force, so long as it is a British one and not that rotten American one, we shall be on the right track.
§ Mr. Bishop
The hon. Gentleman if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be able to pursue this important point. I understand the feeling of the workers in that part of the country and of workers elsewhere, when work is in short supply, that they should retain what work they can in their areas. This causes problems amongst hon. Members who are rightly fighting for the interests of their own constituents.
581 The hon. Gentleman, with his background knowledge and experience in aviation matters, will recognise that when design teams are split up and dispersed it is a serious matter. It takes a long time to get such teams together again and to have them working as a co-ordinated, cohesive team. What happens to the design team now shows what may happen to the manual workers in the company in two years' time. These are the pointers which cause concern about lack of security.
§ Mr. Bishop
Undoubtedly the hon. Gentleman knows as much about that as I do. Those who have made representations to hon. Members on the Jetstream have alleged that the engines are made in France, the tail unit in Canada and the propeller and other significant items of equipment in the United States. We can argue that the work should stay in Manchester, and the people there are rightly concerned about the future. We can also argue about the need for work in Scotland, where the alternative is being made. My point is that because of the shortage of work and the fewer alternatives when the major projects like Concorde, Rolls- Royce projects and others are completed, there is understandably a kind of dog fight between people wanting to keep what work they can, even though those who look at the national picture may decide that there should be different priorities. If we had more work there would be greater fluidity of contracts and projects and better prospects for all concerned.
This is not a constituency interest for me, although I am concerned as one who has been in the industry on design for 25 years. Hon. Members who are locally involved include my hon. Friends the Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris), Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. Charles R. Morris), Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), Manchester, Blakley (Mr. Rose), Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), Oldham, East (Mr. Lamond), Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), Stockport, South (Mr. Orbach), Salford, West (Mr. Orme), Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) and Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth). They have all expressed their concern. 582 We cannot dismiss the problems easily. The Minister will undoubtedly receive further representations. It would be helpful if he would make some comment on the prospects tonight, having regard to the considerations mentioned by his hon. Friends of the need for work in other places as well.
§ Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)
Does my hon. Friend agree that the very survival of Hawker-Siddeley is at stake? [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] I have talked to the people concerned many times. At least one hon. Member opposite and a number of other hon. Members are aware that Hawker-Siddeley could be in jeopardy unless a flow of work is guaranteed, not just for the design teams but for the production workers. There is a possibility of the 748's being used not only for military but for commercial purposes, which could make it a very viable prospect. Therefore, what we are talking about is the survival of a British firm and not sub-contracting to all sorts of foreign interests.
§ Mr. Bishop
The situation is the result of the shortage of work. People naturally try to secure their own future in their own area, possibly at the expense of others. That is natural. The Minister has received the representations of my hon. Friends, who have been lobbied and have been working with the deputations. He will possibly be able to say something to get rid of their fears.
It is well known that when we discuss aircraft we are also discussing subcontractors. The Rolls-Royce affair was an example of many subcontractors being affected. In my constituency I have had the problems of Ransome, Hoffman and Pollard, the ball-bearing firm, over the Rolls-Royce situation, and it is concerned about the future of the aircraft industry and other industries. Some firms face severe competition from the Japanese, especially in ballbearings. Firms making sophisticated specialised bearings and components for the aerospace industry do not always have the opportunity to offset some of their high research and development costs by large ranges of standard bearings, which are now being produced by the Japanese.
It is very short sighted if British firms buy Japanese bearings, because it is undermining the viable industry of this 583 country and the effect upon their employees in the long term could be disastrous. In view of the uncertainty of our industry, the Japanese threat is very real. In 1967, our imports from Japan were £800,000 but now are running at about £4 million a year. This figure gives cause for concern. Many people have made representations, including the Federation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, through its Technical and Supervisory Section. I understand that Mr. George Doughty, its General Secretary, made representations to the Minister in November, when he produced a paper expressing his concern and that of his colleagues about the future of the industry. There have also been expressions of concern by the Society of British Aircraft Constructors, and by the Air League Council, of which I am a member, as is the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow).
The Air League Council produced a paper for consideration and on 6th December I asked the Minister what representations had been made by the Air League and what he had replied. His only answer was:I have received the Air League's pamphlet entitled 'The United Kingdom Aerospace Industry' published in October of this year."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1971; Vol. 827, c. 204.]He did not take the opportunity to say that he had studied the pamphlet and had certain observations to make on it. This debate gives him the chance to rectify that omission.
I wonder sometimes whether the hon. Gentleman appreciates that there is not only a problem of the waste of precious skills which these workers have at various levels, and which may have cost the country about £10,000 in training, but also that the intensive specialisation of such people means that, when there is redundancy and short time, they do not easily find alternative work. We do not want here the situation in the United States, which I recently visited, where Ph.D.s are driving cabs and doing other manual jobs. It is not only bad for the country but frustrating to those who have done so much to qualify for some of these specialised posts and whose skills we should be using in the interests of the country as a whole and not wholly for 584 the satisfaction of the individuals concerned.
I believe that the future of our aerospace industry is in doubt with so many people because one cannot easily fill the vacuum when the present projects are phased out. One could mention the various projects carried out by different firms. One can foresee the time when they will come to a stop and one wonders what will take their place. I shall not refer to Concorde at great length, as it is the subject of a debate later. We are still waiting for many options to be turned into firm orders. There have been encouraging responses in the last week or two from B.O.A.C., at least about its critical appraisal of Concorde's commercial prospects, but, of course, the air lines themselves cannot work and plan in a vacuum, and the prospects of the air lines in the United States are not too good.
One notes with satisfaction that, following the visit of the Concorde to the United States, President Nixon seems anxious to replace the vacuum created there by the cancellation of the S.S.T. While the interest aroused by Concorde will help us, it may, of course, encourage competition at a greater pace from the United States itself. After Concorde and after the RB211 and following the abandonment of the BACIII, there is only the Hawker-Siddeley involvement in the European air bus. The other projects in view are minor by comparison.
We ought to have some indication of Government policy over VTOL. The Government should say what is going on behind the scenes, if anything. We must look not only at aerospace manufacture and procurement, but at airline policy, airports development and the other changes that have taken place, bearing in mind that it is now possible to travel by rail from such places as Manchester to London even quicker and cheaper than by air, having regard to the amount of time spent getting to and from airports and the possibility that flights may be cancelled or diverted due to bad weather and other conditions.
We must look at the ultimate objectives of VTOL and STOL. They will be coming into operation in the 1980s and we must consult with local authorities on both sides of the Channel and think about updating safety regulations. 585 Britain leads the world in this area, the Harrier being a fine example, looked on with envy by other countries. What sense is there in allowing Pratt and Whitney access to the technical know how of the Pegasus engines which power this aircraft?
Britain should be thinking about future planning. Looking at the industry as a whole we can see the need for public support to a great degree. There is hardly a country in the world which is not supporting its aircraft industry in some way or other. In 1970 the Government spent £335 million in the industry—£.247 million on defence projects and £88 million on civil projects, including Concorde. That is a subsidy per employee of £1,462 a year. Taking the nearest industrial classification, including vehicles, this gives an average wage for the industry in 1969 of £1,493 per employee, which means that the amount of subsidy per employee is about what he gets in wages. One wonders about the accountability for this money. Nowadays some employees are getting a subsidy direct from the Government when they are unemployed, although they collect a much lesser sum from the labour exchange.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, Central)
My hon. Friend is making the valid point that the industry needs a good deal of Government support. Is it not reasonable that the Government should insist that management policy is good and avoids labour disputes as much as possible? I have in mind particularly the situation in Bristol, where for a number of weeks we have had employees on strike. Many of us feel that the management is not entirely blameless. Would my hon. Friend care to comment on that?
§ Mr. Bishop
That is a good point. There is general acceptance now, following the Rolls-Royce nationalisation, that the Government must be responsible for central planning and the main policies affecting the industry. In that event, the Government have the right to look at the policies for which firms are receiving money and ensure that it is being well spent. One often wonders why there are so few industrial troubles. Although I appreciate that the subsidy is given to those actively working in the industry, I am not so keen on the scheme whereby once a worker becomes unemployed a 586 subsidy is paid direct by the labour exchange. While I welcome the possibility of receiving the dole by post, what our workers want is work, and it is our job to make sure they get it. Not only the dignity of the worker but the well-being of the country and the industry is affected.
I began by saying that what I wanted was a technical debate on policy matters in which the Government were forthcoming about their thinking, but the belief that there is a need for public accountability and central planning is not restricted to people of my political persuasion. The Sunday Telegraph on 6th June last urged:What is needed is a comprehensive British aerospace policy assured of continued British effort in those market sectors which have proved successful so far.I agree with that.
My final point concerns a most important matter, namely, the situation if and when we enter the Common Market. A few months ago I made a visit to the Community lasting several days to find out the situation, in particular, concerning science and technology. Although I take the view that we should be careful about entering the Common Market, I do not advocate a dog-in-the-manger attitude, because if we enter the Common Market, the Community and Europe generally will look to us for a lead and to take the initiative in this matter. The Government's policies have been defined by their attitude to Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, their comments about "lame dogs", and their policy of disengagement and of not getting involved with industries in trouble. This is not the philosophy for the Government to adopt if we enter the Common Market.
I have been looking at some of the five volumes of the Report of the Commission of the European Communities' studies on the aeronautical and space industries of the Community compared with those of the United Kingdom and the United States. The conclusions make comparisons about the rate of investment and the percentage of gross national product spent on those industries in Britain and in the rest of Europe. If the Government are anxious to ensure that we have a British aircraft industry and that we have close liaison with Europe, they must adopt a much different philosophy. They must be prepared to get involved 587 in these matters and to be prepared for engagement instead of disengagement. They may have to put a lot of money and facilities into the industry if Europe is to be given the lead and initiative which it expects from this country.
I appreciate the opportunity which I have been given of initiating this debate. I hope that the Minister will be encouraged by my comments and by those of others not necessarily to tell us about major policy decisions, but to show that they are thinking about these issues. I hope that they will say that they expect to receive the report of the Marshall Committee in the near future. The workers and management in the industry look to the Government to lay down the guidelines and to show that they are concerned about this important matter.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Walhamstow, East)
I welcome the opportunity to speak and I congratulate the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) on choosing this subject for debate. I think that this is the first time that we have had a debate simply on the aerospace industry since I became a Member of the House nearly three years ago, and I think it is high time we discussed the likely future policy of the industry and the Government's attitude to it.
The aerospace industry is today perhaps more introspective than it has been for many years. It is reaching the point at which it is not sure which direction it should take. Therefore, bearing in mind that there is to be a study carried out by Mr. Marshall for the Cabinet, it is reasonable for us, by our contributions, tonight to help him to decide what that policy should be.
At this moment of time there is no British national civil aircraft project in hand or envisaged in the industry. Nor is there a new military project except the Bulldog and the Hawker Siddeley 1182 trainer aircraft, both quite small-scale projects. I would not, of course, suggest that the men in the industry have not a very considerable amount of work to do; we all know about Concorde, the A300B, the Jaguar, the multi-rôle combat aircraft, and the Anglo-French helicopter project. However, the fact is that in simple national terms we do not 588 have a project of our own, and, therefore, we do not have a project with which to exercise the minds of our design teams or of our engineers and draftsmen. It is a cause for some concern, because without such a project we are likely to fall out of the state of the art and to find ourselves no longer able to have a viable aircraft industry.
At the same time, having said that, one has to admit that the industry finds it extremely difficult to identify a new commercial requirement or indeed to decide what its military design requirements should be, and I think that this is a question which the Government must bear in mind, because, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newark said, the aircraft industry does require a measure of Government support, quite unlike any other industry in this country. In support of this contention I would argue that this industry has been a valuable export earner in the past and that it continues to be so, and that the need for Government support was recognised by Sir Ronald Edwards in his report in which he said—I shall paraphrase—that the Government of the day should give substantial support to the production of civil aircraft because of the advantages in the employment of national design and engineering skills in the industry, because of the defence need to maintain a viable manufacturing industry, and because of the gains to industry overall from the stimulus and dissemination of advanced technology applied in aircraft manufacture. These are just three of the reasons which Sir Ronald advanced. Each of them is an extremely powerful argument, and I shall try to exploit each of those reasons in what I have to say.
The question of what sized labour force should be in the industry and of how many companies should make up the industry is much more difficult to decide. The industry was 150,000 strong in 1950; it is now 212,000 strong; but between those two points there was a peak of 284,000 in 1960. So no political party can claim that it was more or less sympathetic to the industry. I do not think any one of us would want to say that there is a correct figure for the number of men who must be employed at all times in the industry, any more than anyone would wish to say there must be a certain number of airframe manufacturers 589 or of aero-engine manufacturers or of avionic companies. That decision should to some extent resolve itself by the market and by the requirements for aircraft in this country.
I come to a point which is undoubtedly exercising the industry at the moment—where it should be going and in what it should be involved and the part the Government should play in its activities. I think myself that we have got to look at those questions in both a short and a long-term way. I want to take the short-term issue first, and that is this question of the likelihood of increasing unemployment in the industry.
The hon. Member for Newark made the plea that, because of the likelihood of unemployment, the Hawker Siddeley 748 should be given special preference over another aircraft which is in competition for the same defence training requirement. I do not think that that argument stands up, at least not in that particular case, because I do not think that the two aircraft are really comparable. What is more, the Hawker Siddeley 748 has been around for a number of years. Only this week, I received a Press notice from Hawker Siddeley telling me that it had picked up another two orders from Siam. So I suspect that the Hawker Siddeley 748 can stand on its own two wheels—if not on its own two feet—and we do not have to make special pleading for it to be taken up by the Royal Air Force. But, equally, whichever aircraft is chosen, I hope that it is chosen because it is the best for the job it is called upon to do. In all honesty, I should not wish to choose between unemployment in Manchester and unemployment in Scotland, and I cannot believe that it is a choice for us in this House to make. The question is crucial in both cases.
What we should consider is whether there are other aircraft projects peculiarly British, uniquely British, which require special sympathy from the Government. If I point to two Hawker Siddeley aircraft, I do so because both are exceptional. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Harrier. It is a unique aircraft. We are all very proud that it is British. It is the first vertical take-off strike aircraft in squadron service in the world, and it represents a remarkable achievement.
590 The Harrier is in R.A.F. service, and we know, because the United States Marines have ordered it, that there is a very real chance that not only shall we have a further marine order for it but that the United States navy also will want to buy it. If the Americans want to buy—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows this—they will require it with an uprated Pegasus engine.
At this moment, as I understand it—I hope that I am wrong—Her Majesty's Government are providing funding only for the uprated Pegasus engine, the Pegasus 15, to the extent of one ground demonstration engine, that is, an engine purely for the test bench, but not one for in-flight testing. If the Pegasus 15 is to be developed for the United States navy, the money for that development, I understand, will come from the Americans, who will inevitably take over both the engine and the airframe, since the airframe will have to be altered to allow the larger engine to be fitted.
It is conceivable—I put it no higher —that we could reach a stage at which the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force found that it had a requirement for the uprated Harrier with the Pegasus 15 engine, yet, that if they wanted that aircraft although it was designed here by British skills and abilities they would have to go to the Americans and say, "Please can we ave our aeroplane back? We will buy it from you".
For my part—I cannot believe that my hon. Friends would not feel the same—I could not bear to think that such a situation could arise, especially as we know that the Royal Navy is considering the use of Harrier from various ships, perhaps even what we may describe one day from Harrier carriers.
As such a possibility faces us, the possibility of losing control of this engine and the aircraft, I appeal to the Minister to say that the Government will not let it happen, that they will find sufficient funding to ensure that the aircraft remains British, and that, even if they consider the sum of money so great that they cannot do it on their own, they will enter into a joint scheme with the American Government so that the engine and the aircraft are developed on an Anglo-American basis. I believe that this is crucial to the future of a great military 591 aircraft, crucial to our aircraft industry and crucial to our pride in that industry.
By the same token—and again I refer to another Hawker Siddeley military aircraft—I understand from the Sunday Telegraph that the R.A.F. has not a sufficient number of Nimrod aircraft to be able to fulfil the rôle of maritime reconnaissance for which it originally ordered the aircraft.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
Before my hon. Friend goes on to Nimrod, I hope he will make it clear that by an Anglo-American venture on the uprated Pegasus and Harrier he means that the Americans share the cost for all the work to be done in this country, rather than us sharing the cost and the work being done in America.
§ Mr. McNair-Wilson
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. That is a point which I wished to make, and I am glad that he has clarified it.
Nimrod, like Harrier, is an exceptional aircraft. There is nothing like it anywhere else in the world, and no one has dared to suggest that it cannot more than fulfil the task for which it was designed. As I have said, the R.A.F. wants more Nimrod aircraft. Hawker Siddeley wants to keep the production line open and to keep at work the skilled men who have helped to create that aeroplane. If the R.A.F. wants it, and if we need employment in our aircraft factories, which we clearly do, then again why do not we order some more and allow the R.A.F. to do the job for which it originally ordered the 38 aircraft which it at present possesses?
I also understand there is a possibility that if the Nimrod line can remain open a little longer overseas orders may come forward. We should then get a double bonus and we should not have ordered the aeroplane simply to keep people at work but because it was genuinely required.
I have talked about these two military aircraft, both of which are made by Hawker Siddeley not because I am not equally sympathetic to the British Aircraft Corporation, but because, fortunately, B.A.C. has a reasonable military programme on its hands. We know that it has a heavy commitment in the Jaguar 592 programme and also the multi-rôle combat aircraft. I am therefore glad to think that B.A.C. does not have the pressing worries that are with Hawker Siddeley.
I should perhaps explain that there is a Hawker Siddeley factory in my constituency, but it does not manufacture aeroplanes. However, Hawker Siddeley has proved itself to be one of the most commercially successful British aircraft manufacturers since the war. The company possibly feels that Government money has gone to companies—one cannot but think of Rolls-Royce—who are in dire straits but otherwise have little merit, rather than to a company which has shown itself prepared to stand out in the aircraft industry and make its own way. That is one more reason why we should consider Harrier and Nimrod as two special cases.
I want to turn to civil aircraft projects. First, I congratulate the Government on the support they have now given to Concorde. This has been badly needed for some time. Hon. Members may have felt, as I have, that we have been spending the money but not getting enough credit for what we were doing. I also hope that B.A.C. and Aerospatiale will now reap a rich harvest of orders. They have produced an outstanding aeroplane, a world-beater, and they deserve full credit for doing that.
However, if we now say that we have spent £500 million of British taxpayers' money, thank goodness that is all over, let us forget it, then we shall have wasted our money. We have started on a generation of aircraft, and if we do not reap the rich corn we have sown in terms of a family of supersonic aircraft of varying sizes, then the investment of the British taxpayer will not have been well made.
This point was recently made to me by a senior airline executive, who said, "We must not think of the Concorde as a one-off aircraft. It is the beginning of something that can last for a decade, or indeed two or three decades." We have a lead which we know is envied by the American aircraft industry and which President Nixon has said he envies. Let us see that the lead which we now possess is exploited to give the British and French aircraft industry the full benefit of their courage and technical skill.
593 I was delighted to see in the Sunday Times this week a statement by some of those involved in making the aircraft that they too believed we should go for a family of aeroplanes—in other words, that we should capitalise on Concorde and the know-how we have built up.
As I have said, Concorde, before it goes into service, will probably cost the British taxpayer £500 million. Against that, the £150 million we shall spend on the RB211 does not seem a very large sum of money. But those two projects have taken, and are taking, what one might describe as a disproportionate share of the Government money available to the aircraft industry.
I have welcomed Concorde's success. I am equally glad to hear that the RB211 now seems to have got over its main problems and Rolls-Royce is optimistic that it will reach its specified performance in terms of the 1011. It is an advanced technology engine of considerable merit, but perhaps in this day and age its single greatest merit is that it belongs to that new concept of engines, the noiseless ones. I believe it is something on which we can capitalise. I was recently in Burbank and, although I think the 1011 will be a great seller for Lockheed, I am more interested that the 211 engine should sell not only in one aircraft type, but in a number of aircraft types.
I want Rolls-Royce engines to sell to whoever wants to buy them. With that engine they have an opportunity of breaking into other aircraft projects which are at present on the designer's drawing board and which I hope one day will fly. In terms of our own industry we should concern ourselves as to whether we can use that engine in some aircraft type which at present is possibly only a gleam in a draughtsman's eye.
It has been suggested that the present air-buses may be a little on the large side for some of the short-haul routes in Europe. I suggest to my hon. Friend that we should be turning our thoughts towards an airliner based on the wide-bodied concept but smaller than the projected air-buses and based perhaps on a fuselage which may already be in existence and capable of taking the 211 engine—an aircraft which might have the signal benefit of short-take off and landing and which, with that engine, would 594 have the quietness which has been so long sought and which would be of such benefit to all those who live anywhere near an airport.
This would be a project into which our industry could get its teeth; it would be a civil aviation project on which our designers and engineers could busy themselves even if its cost was so great that we had to collaborate with the Europeans. However, I do not think anybody would argue against collaboration on a major project of this kind. Such an aircraft type would have a wide market, and therefore I commend it to my hon. Friend.
One of my last points relates to this question of collaborative projects. Clearly, we are always up against how much we can spend. As well as that, we are up against what risk we can expect aerospace companies or even aero engine companies to take when they are involved in one of these great new projects. We saw what happened to Rolls-Royce. In that case, there was bad management, and mistakes were made. But the size of the project proved more than even that great company could cope with.
I accept that probably collaboration is inevitable. But collaboration must not be of the sort which turns our once proud aerospace industry into a mere sub-contracting industry for Western Europe. If we do that, we shall have achieved nothing. We shall have lost the skills, we shall have driven away those people who make up our design teams. We have to sow the seed corn in the directions where we think aviation will go.
We have had a reference to vertical take-off. At the moment, no one can define the commercial requirement. But everyone feels that it is bound to come and that it is the future shape of aeroplanes. If it is, we should have some sort of test aircraft on which to learn the lessons of operating commercial vertical take-off aircraft successfully. I believe that we should be spending Government money in developing such a test aircraft with one of our two aerospace companies or perhaps in a collaborative programme with both, possibly with the Europeans as well. But until we learn the lessons which have to be learned, until we have studied the technology, we shall not be in a position to know whether 595 this is a viable project to follow Or whether it is a non-runner.
There are many other projects that we could be discussing. Anyone who had the privilege of listening last week to Sir Barnes Wallis, that 85-year old grand old man of the aircraft industry, will say that in this country we have men whose brains are second to none. His descriptions of hypersonic aircraft did not seem to be flights of fancy. Rather, they seemed to be flights of reality. Therefore, the knowledge is there. It is untapped. It deserves to be tapped, and the Government must assist in that.
I argue for the Government to support those present-day projects which deserve support because they are there, because they are proven and because they are wanted. I have referred already to the Harrier and the Nimrod. I want the Government to give the industry the feeling that it has the Government 596 behind it, that the Government want it to remain in existence, and that the Government appreciate its value in terms of being at a new frontier of technology all the time and not simply in commercial terms because of its export earnings for the nation year after year.
What is needed is a clear-cut statement of the Government's intention to maintain the aircraft industry's existence and to help it with those projects which it and the Government jointly believe are worth assistance. What the Government may put into those projects will not be a subsidy. It will be an investment for the future on which we should get a handsome return. If the Government view those projects in that light, I believe that we can have an aerospace industry which, even if it is smaller than it is at present, will be so much stronger, so much more viable and so much more optimistic in its attitude to the aircraft markets of the world that we shall regain many of those markets that we have lost in the past.
§ 10.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Bradford, West)
I take as my starting point the premise that in the area of Government intervention the aircraft industry provides a unique opportunity for Government finance to be directed not only to provide jobs, but also to provide an investment that will lead to an earning of foreign exchange and a valuable element of import substitution. From the point of view of employment, it could be perhaps even more certain in its return than fiscal or monetary measures to stimulate employment. That said, I regret somewhat that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement is not present with my hon. Friend, because the two areas of military and civil aviation overlap so very closely and so much of what I have to say refers to the military side but nonetheless has industrial and employment implications, that I wish that he were here.
From the point of view of the Royal Air Force, there are a number of projects of which there are far too few examples as yet in service and which, if accelerated, could provide employment in the factories. The two classic examples to which my hon. Friend has already referred are Nimrod and Harrier. He is absolutely right about Nimrod from the military point of view. There is no doubt that with the ever-increasing Soviet presence around our oceans the 38 or so Nimrods in service are inadequate to cover the vast areas of ocean. If a further order were placed it would be a valuable basis for any subsequent export order. I must emphasise that.
I believe there are a mere four squadrons of Harrier in Royal Air Force service alone. That is a very inadequate provision when one considers that a large number of these aircraft will be deployed forward in Europe, where they will be extremely vulnerable to a first strike, which is something for which N.A.T.O., as a defensive alliance, must prepare. They will be extremely vulnerable also because we do not have heavy-lift helicopter capacity, and therefore their operating platforms and sites are more likely to be detected and pre-empted by a first strike. The Royal Air Force will need Harriers, and we shall certainly need to get Harriers to sea.
598 It is an almost criminal folly, an act of political blindness which will have very grave military implications if not rectified, that we have not yet put Harrier to sea. We have not even had a report to the House of the results of the trials which took place upon "Ark Royal" earlier in the summer. From a visit to her in September, I know that they were outstandingly successful. One can only surmise that the reason why a report has not been made to the House is that it would highlight the folly of the political decision taken by the last Administration that there should be no more fixed-wing air power for the Royal Navy.
It is a purely academic and semantic exercise to say that helicopters are appropriate for the Navy but that fixed-wing aircraft are not. We know that fixed-wing aircraft can operate in a V/STOL mode and push air down a little hotter and harder than helicopters. But the effect is the same. It is a pedantry to differentiate between them, and it must be rectified. If the Royal Navy could get a Harrier to sea with an uprated Pegasus engine, the export possibilities of the Harrier would not be limited to the United States Navy, for which about 200 aircraft would be ordered, but the Italian and other navies would follow suit. This matter must be put right because of the great gap in surface-to surface weaponry in the Royal Navy, for which only air power can compensate.
There will, however, also be a need for the development of surface-to-surface guided weapons of a longer range than the Anglo-French Exocet, which is substantially outranged by Soviet missiles. This is an area of work which the Government could put to industry for the benefit of our armed Services, and which would create jobs.
I understand that the Jaguar is going along well, and we should be proud of the progress to date with this Anglo-French project, but I suspect that in order to sell in overseas markets—we cannot rely on just 400 for the British and French air forces—it will require an up-rating of the Adour and thus a better self-defence capability than it possesses now. It is an outstanding aeroplane, with good short take-off and landing characteristics, good payload range potentialities 599 and a very sophisticated navigational and attack system. It is probably second to none in the front line. If there were this uprating, it would make it an even better seller in export markets than it is now.
The Government must throughout continue to emphasise that the M.R.C.A. project is probably more central to the future of our aerospace industry even than Concorde. It will involve more jobs and, from a technical point of view, many of the systems and many of the design features are even more advanced. The great thing with this project is that it is the forerunner of a whole progeny of new variable geometry aircraft which could ensue. A whole range of tactical strike, reconnaissance, close-support and training aeroplanes could use the variable geometry concept which would allow short take-off, high performance, and a good payload/range. Cross operation could ultimately occur from ships at sea, and that is something that we must continue to emphasise. Whatever considerations our partners in Europe may have—the Germans, for example, to meet the offset costs of stationing American troops in Europe—whatever the political considerations, this aircraft must continue. Both industrially and militarily it is vital.
Then there is the 748. I favour the 748 because it is a proven aircraft. It has an established company behind it. Logistically, it would be easier to support in the Royal Air Force. I understand that the initial cost will be higher, but it has a great training rôle for navigators. The Jetstream is a smaller aeroplane which will have less equipment. For those reasons, and because the 748 is already in Royal Air Force service I should support it rather than the Jet-stream.
I am glad that a further squadron of Buccaneers has been ordered, but as with Nimrod, political considerations inhibit export sales, as they could with Jaguar also, and I hope that that is something to which my hon. Friend will direct his attention.
Tonight I shall mention only heavy lift helicopters, because the various collaborative helicopter programmes are going well. The absence of a heavy lift helicopter is a serious gap in the equipment of the Royal Air Force which will inhibit its capacity to fight forward, par- 600 ticularly from deployed sites in Europe. That situation must be put right. If it is, I hope that the Chinook, or whatever is ordered, will be constructed at West-lands, or that a similar arrangement is made to maximise employment.
Another area which could benefit employment is the reserve forces element of the Royal Air Force. In his statement about the Bulldog order the Minister said that it was intended to replace the Chipmunk in the University Air Squadrons and the primary flying training schools. That is admirable, but nothing was said about the air experience flights around the country. About 13 of those flights are now equipped with Chipmunks, and if Bulldog were brought in to replace them it would be good not only for air experience flights, but for Scottish Aviation.
I have also made other proposals about a jet element for the reserves, and if Strikemaster were ordered that would be valuable. There is a danger that the Strikemaster line, which has been very profitable—over 100 units have been sold to a number of air forces—will come to an end. If we only had a further Government order for the Royal Air Force, further developments of this most excellent training and cheap close support aircraft could be provided which would provide more work and more export potential.
While I am on jet trainers and close support aircraft, the 1182 exercises my mind because it reminds me of nothing more than the Gnat order at the end of the 1950s. There was then a question of whether the Royal Air Force should be equipped with the Hunter trainer or the Gnat, and for political reasons, the choice was made of the Gnat. It was an advanced aeroplane designed by Petter, but its performance was in no way better than the Hunter or the Swift, which were brought out several years before.
I have to say this because I am urging my hon. Friend to bring forward as far as possible the 1182 order, so that he may be able to maximise employment at Hawker Siddeley and replace the Hunter element at the Tactical Weapons Unit at Chivenor—next year at Brawdy—and the Hunter element at No. 4 Flying Training School at Valley. This would mean more work for Hawkers, and 601 would mean that the 1182 would be more competitive with other comparable close support and training aeroplanes in the early 1970s. It would also entail the possibility of selling further refurbished Hunters, which are very profitable to Hawkers, early on. I do not think that one could possibly sell the Gnat refurbished to anyone! For that reason they should be kept in service till the last possible moment with No. 4 F.T.S., and be the last to be replaced.
The Jet Provost Mk 5s have been introduced into Royal Air Force service without being fitted with rocket rails or gyro gunsights or guns for weapon training or for operations. This is a mistake philosophically, because weaponry should be introduced as early as possible into the pilot's flying training but industrially it is a mistake because, if this facility were provided, even retrospectively, it would provide valuable new work—and that is what is needed now. If there is any shortfall on Jet Provosts in the years ahead, I hope that they will be made up with the weapon-equipped and slightly more potent 167 Strikemaster variant.
On the civil side, I am as thrilled as everyone else with the Concorde decision. Even in Bradford, that bastion of the wool textile trade, Concorde has its ramifications: we make the turbine blades and the electrical generating equipment. This is an example of the nation-wide fall-out of Concorde. I am delighted by the Secretary of State's obvious practical enthusiasm for this most admirable project.
But, in the field of wide-bodied civil airliners, I was intrigued by the remark of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), who seemed, when advocating one with a smaller fuselage than existing wide-bodied airlines like the Tristar and a power plant of the RB211 variety, to be suggesting nothing less than the old BAC 311. Some of us regretted that cancellation very much because it would have provided the opportunity for funding an uprated 211, which would have the potential for sales for stretched Tristars and the like, and also because we felt that there was, per se, a requirement for a wide-bodied, twin-engined jet, which is an obvious gap in the civil airliner sector. We perhaps cannot meet 602 that now, but I should like to see us go for V/STOL in a big way—not just design studies: let us cut some metal and get a prototype flying, as my hon. Friend suggested.
I remember well that eloquent interjection from my hon. ex-airline captain Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) when he suggested that, in our approach to the environment and in analysing the effect that technology can have in mitigating the evils of over-urbanisation, it was crazy to put Foulness under concrete when one could get a much better return by going for V-STOL. This is the kind of futuristic forward-looking approach that I should like to see the Government pursue.
In the past there has been no sphere of technical endeavour in which we have not been in the lead as a nation. If we grasped the opportunity, V-STOL is another area where we could be in the lead. So could space, and so it should be. My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East mentioned Sir Barnes Wallis. We must pursue space shuttles and hypersonics. It is not fanciful to imagine trips to Sydney in a couple of hours. The design work has already been initiated in this country. We are going into collaboration at least with the United States in this area. I hope that my hon. Friend will give those ventures his support with Government funds.
I turn now to power plants. There is a lot of new work going on which promises well. There is the RB211, the Adour, and the 199 which will have a remarkable power-weight ratio. It is a very advanced engine.
One area which gives me a certain amount of misgiving is what I call the medium thrust turbo fan—the 20,000 lb. static thrust area. The French seem to be going into collaboration with the Americans to produce a power plant of this power rating. For our future in the civil sector we should certainly be in that area.
Then obiter dicta, as it were, company structure and the regional implications of the industry. Big decisions will have to be taken on the structure of the British aerospace industry. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite have claimed that Hawker Siddeley Aviation will be in jeopardy if it does not get certain orders. That may 603 be. None the less, rationalisation, or some such word, will doubtless come from the Marshall Report. If so, I suggest that we should not go for another monolithic monopoly like Rolls-Royce for the aerospace industry. I should be far happier if one of our big producers went into partnership with a European concern than that we should have a purely British merger. I think that it would be much healthier.
I must emphasise that not only the balance of payments, but the employment considerations of a viable aerospace industry are essential and crucial for the regions. This applies not just to Bristol, Derby, Brough, Hatfield and Kingston, but, strangely enough, to the development areas and the North which face the worst unemployment prospects. Often in those regions there are little publicised, but extremely valuable, sub-contracting companies whose profitability and prosperity are essential to the economies of those areas. They are high technology industries which often provide high earnings in areas where a low earnings economy is endemic and has bedevilled the economic structure for generations. For those reasons alone, I should think it well worth the Government supporting our aircraft industry.
Finally, looking at the civil side, I hope that my hon. Friend will not forget that the Royal Air Force has an air transport force which will require wide-bodied equipment if it is to be able to deploy forces quickly around the world. It may also, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) suggested, require Concorde for rapid reinforcement. But it will certainly need wide-bodied equipment, and I hope that my hon. Friend, in consultation with my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, will address himself to this as well.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Palmer (Bristol, Central)
I did not intend to take part in the debate until about half an hour ago, but I am nevertheless grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) for initiating it and for the title he has selected.
I have two principal reasons for my interest in the subject. One is obviously that I am a Member for Bristol, a great 604 centre of the aircraft industry. The other is that I have had the privilege and honour of being in the Chair of Sub-Committee B of the Select Committee on Science and Technology which has been looking at British space activities very recently.
I said in an intervention that if Government money was to be poured into the aircraft industry, as it is, the Government in return had a right to insist on sound management policies, or policies as sound as can be obtained. This point is very topical in Bristol, because, in spite of the fears expressed about the stability of the aircraft industry and the danger of unemployment, we have had a long-drawn-out strike in the aircraft industry there. It is unfortunate and regrettable, and we should all like to see it brought to an end as soon as possible. I do not know the latest position to this hour.
That industrial dispute has a general lesson. In Bristol there has been a great tendency to put the blame upon the employees. The local establishment, including the Press, has come down hard on the employees throughout, and I say with regret that the Conservative Members for the city have not been particularly helpful in this respect. I speak as an engineer with some knowledge of industry. In such a dispute the first people who should be looked at are the management. Much of the difficulty has been that because of financial and other changes we have moved from having in command men who were true industrialists, engineers and technologists, men who had a feel and instinct for the industry, to the accountants and men of figures. That is why the management in the industry is becoming increasingly remote from the everyday lives of those who work in it, from the lives not only of the industrial workers but of many of the technicians, technologists, professional engineers and so on.
It is the business of a Government when it pours money into a publicly-supported industry to see that those who manage the industry are capable and understand its needs, not only its commercial and technical needs but its human needs.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
I do not wish to pursue this argument across the Floor of the House, but 605 the hon. Gentleman is blaming the Conservative Members and he previously blamed the management for the strike. The work force is today blaming the Western Daily Press for creating the strike. If those workers realised how dependent their jobs are on public money, might not they think it better to have jaw-jaw before war-war and keep working, if they think they have a case, instead of going on strike? The unions have refused to have a secret ballot, and even the hon. Gentleman would agree that there is hardly unanimous support among the work force.
§ Mr. Palmer
I also do not wish to pursue this too far. It seems that the hon. Gentleman is pursuing the candy floss of the argument. Does he really suppose that men put themselves out of work and subject their families to privation unless they have a genuine grievance? Of course not. No one would suppose they would. His intervention is all too typical of the view of the local establishment, and I hope that it will be noted by the workers in the industry. A word must be said on their behalf because they are having a hard time in Bristol and no one has been anxious to stand up for them until now.
I turn to the space industry, briefly because I hope that we will have the opportunity of a full-scale debate on the report. The starting point of the report of the Select Committee was that Britain cannot afford to neglect space and its opportunities. It is important to make the point because I found, as I am sure other hon. Members have found, that there is a widespread opinion among the public that space is an all or nothing activity. No one would seriously suggest that in terms of resources Britain can match the efforts of the United States or the Soviet Union. But this should not blind us to our importance in what I call the second league of advanced industrial nations such as France, Germany and Japan. We should take pride of place in that second league.
To an advanced industrial country in the 20th century, space is now just as significant for development and exploitation—and I use the word in its best sense —as was the sea in the 17th century or the air in the early part of the present century. It was for this reason that Sub- 606 Committee B of the Select Committee on Science and Technology was a little critical of the present official attitude of extreme caution towards the development of the United Kingdom's space activities. I hope the Under-Secretary will note this point. One of the Departments which gave evidence said that this country must identify objectives which are within our means and our capabilities. Note the vast caution embedded deep in that statement. There is nothing here of a spirit of adventure.
The Committee felt that this over-careful approach should be abandoned and in its place should be put a positive intention to see that our able people, scientific and technical, manual and intellectual, should gain the opportunity to develop their skills in space techniques. Though it may be a little unfashionable to say so just now, certainly in parts of my party at present, we should not run away from or decry technological prestige. We said bluntly that a country such as Britain, where living standards depend to an enormous extent on the widest technological advances, we cannot afford to ignore the invigorating effect on the rising generation of technical people of success in difficult areas of technology. In other words, morale counts tremendously.
The history of British space activity goes back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. It was conceived in the first place as part of a joint European effort through bodies such as E.S.R.O., the European Space Research Organisation, and E.L.D.O., the European Launcher Development Organisation. In 1962, E.L.D.O. started the ill-fated launcher "Europa I", based on the British military Blue Streak rocket, with a French second stage and a German third stage. There was a said history of technical failure with the project, however, due in part, strangely enough, to German inexperience in working high temperature metal. It is extraordinary but it is the case. One would have thought that the Germans at least would have understood such things.
It is also true that organisationally international projects of this complexity need a realistic delegation of responsibility to a united management with nationality put aside. This was not the case with the "Europa I" project. In 607 practice, with the escalating costs, individual nations looked jealously to their own advantage from the programme and in 1968 the Labour Government unfortunately withdrew from the European launching of satellites and announced that in future Britain would hire facilities in the United States.
The Select Committee looked into this in considerable detail and took evidence from various industrial witnesses who had varying views on the rightness or otherwise of the decision to rely in future on American capability for the launching of satellites. The British Aircraft Corporation accepted the decision as economically sound; Hawker Siddeley felt that it was a dangerous situation for this country for the United States to have such power, because if the United States controlled the launcher, in the long run it would possibly control the satellites as well. Hawker Siddeley felt this to be an uncomfortable dependence.
Some of us, even though we were of the Opposition, hoped perhaps that, with the new Government, there might be a different outlook on this matter, but the policy has been continued in the Department and the Minister, in his evidence to the Select Committee, very firmly thought that the American launchers would meet all our needs for the foreseeable future.
Hence, reluctantly, on the weight of the evidence and in view of the fact that Britain had made the break with the European launcher, we concluded that it would be difficult and expensive to rejoin the European collaboration. Nevertheless, I hope that the opinion of continuing with the American launchers or returning to the European project will be kept open.
But I have given enough of my time to the rather sad history of the European space effort. The question now is, what shape our future British space policy should take? It seemed to us in the Select Committee that British policy in future should be more decisive. We thought in particular that the time had come to end the untidy system of diffusing the responsibility over several Government Departments and also sharing it with bodies such as the Post Office Corporation in the communications and air traffic control sectors.
608 In our view, the case for an independent check and appraisal on general progress has become powerful—a view in which the manufacturers who gave evidence concurred. We thought the Government should set objectives which are more commercial in character than has been the case in the past, and that the cancellation of Black Arrow should not mean any paring back in effort but the transfer of energies to other applications such as weather forecasting, where Britain at the moment seems to be faltering. Perhaps our strongest and most decisive recommendation was that there should be an independent British national space agency—nothing as elaborate as the American organisation, heaven forbid, but certainly something which would be fairly close to, say, the French system. The details of this body would need to be worked out, but it would be interesting to know the Government's reaction to the principle.
The creation of a national space agency to look ahead and anticipate needs is important for another reason. Soon this country will have to make up its mind about the American post-Apolla programme in which the European nations have jointly been asked to participate. There is a proposal for a space satellite launcher by a shuttle from earth to varying orbits which, it is said, will more economically in the long run take the place of the present launching systems. The Americans, for reasons not only of cost but of world co-operation in space, are anxious that Europe should take part. The position of the United Kingdom is important as part of general European co-operation.
B.A.C., in its evidence to the Select Committee, said that, in its view,technological and managerial innovation would be stimulated by British participation in post-Apollo".Already we are beginning to see, as has been said, in aerospace new European grouping of companies, including United Kingdom companies. This will be a surer basis for co-operation in future than the more artificial national state cooperation insisted on earlier in British space activity in relation to Europe but a lot depends on the British attitude to post-Apollo.
609 I am sure that the Under-Secretary of State will be as cautious as his predecessors have been—I should like him to be different, but I suspect that he will not be—but I wish to quote one paragraph from the Select Committee's report:Discussion relating to the American post-Apollo programme may well serve to catalyse future European co-operation in space.The Select Committee made that point strongly. It goes on to say:The outcome of the studies by ESRO and ELDO is not yet known, nor has the American offer been precisely formulated, although British firms are already actively seeking a role in association with American prime contractors. When a definite proposal is considered, we hope that in co-operation with Europe the United Kingdom will vigorously pursue the potentialities of participation".I hope that the Under-Secretary will pay attention to those quite strong words and will give the House a helpful reply.
§ 10.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I am sure that the House is grateful to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) for choosing this subject for debate, even some of us were a bit astonished at the impudence of his choice, because he was a supporter of the Government whose only contribution to the aerospace industry was not to cancel Concorde. I add my congratulations to the Government on announcing their firm support for the Concorde project. Having, like others present in the Chamber, been fortunate enough to fly in Concorde, I have no doubt that it will achieve the commercial success forecast for it. I look forward very keenly to the placing by B.O.A.C. of an order for the aircraft before many more weeks have passed.
I would now turn to some aspects of civil aviation and treat them quite briefly. It is worth reminding ourselves that if we discount the collaborative contracts, such as Concorde and the A300, there is no guarantee that in four years' time there will be work continuing in any British factory on any civil aircraft. This is a very serious state of affairs, and, incidentally, a very serious indictment of the situation as it was left by the previous Administration. There are some steps which could be taken in the short term to remedy this. I do not happen to be convinced by many of the argu- 610 ments in favour of the HS 748 put about this evening. Some of the arguments which the union side at Hawker Siddeley have been putting forward go straight into the knocking copy category. They do not do the union side any credit, they do not really touch on the issues involved and I hope very much that hon. Members will discard them. There is moreover a case to be argued on the achievements of Scottish Aviation, which is backing the Jetstream project. This company certainly should not be belittled and hon. Members who have taken the trouble to go to Prestwick and see for themselves can testify to this.
On a slightly larger scale there is a need to stretch the Trident production line. B.E.A. will soon have to replace some of its Vanguard and Trident aircraft. I hope that the industry will be able to take advantage of the quieter Spey engine, because if we can only reduce the noise of these engines we can surely add to the sales potential of the existing Trident types.
Something should also be done to lengthen the BAC 1–11 production line. Specifically I have in mind the desirability of ordering two aircraft of the 475 type to re-equip the Queen's Flight. I say that with all the more pleasure this evening in the confident expectation that my remarks will cause the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) to choke when he reads HANSARD tomorrow morning.
To touch briefly on the engine side, I think we should not under-estimate the political content of the RB211 programme. There is a great deal of credibility riding on the back of the RB211. We cannot ignore the fact that this is closely interlinked with the Lockheed 1011. Since this is so I believe we must accept that if there is a British market in which the Lockheed 1011 has some sales expectation, the Government ought to make it clear that there is no barrier to the taking of a decision at the earliest possible moment. If, specifically, this means that B.E.A. has a preference for the 1011 as part of the corporation's re-equipment programme, then the Government should make it known to those who run the affairs of B.E.A. that they see positive advantage in getting the decision taken earlier rather than later.
611 In all these brief comments there is one common theme, that we must make up our minds to maximise the technology which we have already developed. It is all very well to talk about the hypersonic aircraft, and some of the other futuristic types mentioned in this Chamber this evening: but we must also recognise the danger that we may fail to cash in to the full on what we have already achieved.
That brings me to the longer term. I do not know whether the Marshall Report is to be made public. I gather that, it is probably not, but I am sure my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will be instantly familiar with another document, which I have here, the Rapport de Comite des Industries Aeronautique et Spatiale. I have the full text in French, but perhaps it would be more convenient if I translate as I go on. This is a document which demonstrates the interest which the French take in this industry and the way in which they seek to embody it in their forward planning. It is, I suppose, France's "Marshall", and published at that.
The objectives stand out plainly in the document. There is the objective of national defence:To maintain the ability to create within the French industry…the equipment needed for our defence.Second, exports:To strengthen the policy of expanding exports of military aircraft and associated equipment….Third,To establish firm foundations for a French aeronautical industry which will be competitive in the world markets, which alone can ensure its continued expansion in the future.The fourth, specifically on the subject of space, shows a keen determination on the part of the French planners to capitalise upon the potential which lies there.
I should like to see some similar declaration of intent from our side. I am reinforced the more in that view when I compare the projections of British and French aerospace spending, so far as it is possible to compare them at all. Whereas, in 1971, we shall be spending roughly the same amount as France on Concorde, the French will be spending over £35 million on other projects, including the Airbus, the Mercure, helicopters, 612 and so on, and we shall be spending nothing. While we have a lead over the French in commercial research and development, they are to spend on space in 1971 10 times the expenditure projected by Her Majesty's Government.
This is not a state of affairs which can go on for long without our getting hopelessly left behind. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State recognises that we must put more of an effort in here if we wish to stay in the race at all.
We must concentrate on the development of a small quiet engine. One of the paradoxes of the situation is that in a few years there will be a lot of quiet large aeroplanes and a lot of noisy small ones. Such a situation will not be tolerated for long. We had better get in ahead and anticipate the developing market.
I share the interest of my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), in the idea of putting the RB211 on a sawn-off A300 airframe. This is a project with considerable potential. But, at the same time, we must not ignore the point that quite a number of schedules and a large amount of air transport demand will be concentrated on aircraft of an order of size of 80 to 100 seats.
To summarise my feeling on the whole subject, I think that the Government inherited a difficult and, indeed, almost chaotic situation. The hon. Member for Newark showed no recognition of that, and I am sorry that he did not, because he really knows better. The Government have done a great deal to bring order out of chaos—and the spirit of the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) hovers over our deliberations tonight to remind us all just how chaotic it was. What we have to face now—I believe that this Government will face it—is the need to have a long-term strategy. Without it, the survival of the industry really is in danger.
§ 11.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Marks (Manchester, Gorton)
I should be the last to claim expertise in the aerospace industry, and I have listened with great interest to the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) and those who followed him. I can only suggest that, in return, hon. Members should come to 613 future debates on education and social security, because, though not expert on aerospace, many of us are rapidly becoming expert on the problems of redundancy and unemployment and on the waste of skilled labour in our great industrial areas.
My interest in the debate is threefold. My constituency lies midway between the Woodford and Chadderton factories of Hawker Siddeley; it houses workers from both factories, and, what is more, it houses a number of people who did work there but who are now unemployed. My second link is that, before coming to the House, I was head of a secondary school within a mile of the Chadderton factory, and it is on my conscience that I urged boys to advance their education and take craft apprenticeships and technical apprenticeships with that company. Some of those boys are now unemployed. The third possible link is that my mother used to repair the fabric of Fairey Aviation aircraft during the war, so she can probably claim to be an even greater expert than I am.
I make no apology for introducing a short-term factor into the debate. If there is no short-term future for the British aircraft industry and its workers, there can be no long-term future for the industry because the workers will be elsewhere. There has been a great deal of redundancy at these two factories, and the employees are tired of hearing the argument that if we could buy 2,000 this will become a viable proposition. The word "viable" is getting on their nerves, and one wonders whether it means the same as "vanishing point". The employees are anxious to secure the procurement by the R.A.F. of the HS748. This seems to be preferable to the predominantly foreign-built Jetstream aircraft. It has been argued that the 748 may be too big for the purpose for which the R.A.F. requires it, but it can be used not only for pilot training but also for training other aircrew. I should like to hear the Minister's view on that.
I understand that the estimate for the 25 aircraft is much greater for the 748 than for the Jetstream, but there are other factors. Virtually the whole of the 748 is manufactured in North-West England and Scotland. The Jetstream engines are made in France and the tail units in Canada, and it is largely an 614 assembly job in Scotland. It has been suggested that the 748 with its Rolls-Royce engines will provide more employment in Scotland than will the other aircraft. The R.A.F. is already using the 748, and aircrews and maintenance staff are trained in its use. It is a multipurpose aircraft and it also has a high second-hand value. It has been suggested to the workers' representatives that there are R.A.F. objections to the specification. The firm and the workers argue that it complies with R.A.F. Specification 398. Are they right or wrong?
What is the Government's long-term plan for the industry, particularly in the Greater Manchester area? The design teams who are being kept in existence want to know. The production workers, who have already suffered redundancies and, because of lack of work for the design teams will probably suffer greater redundancies 18 months hence, want to know too. Is there a future in the aircraft industry in the greater Manchester area?
A future for the aircraft industry means in the main a Government policy for the aircraft industry. This is where Government interference is welcome. I understand that decisions on the choice of aircraft for the R.A.F. may be taken before the House meets again on 17th January, and I hope the points I have raised will be taken into consideration before that decision is made.
§ 11.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings)
One of our problems in trying to address ourselves to the future of the aerospace industry is that we have no single Minister to whom we can speak. There are at least two, and maybe three, Ministers whom it would be a pleasure to see accompanying my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the Front bench this evening, and he is obviously restricted in that he must preclude from his reply many of the items on military affairs. This is a pity, but I hope he will excuse us if we dwell on military affairs as well as the affairs over which he has jurisdiction.
The industry does not recognise barriers between military and civil markets. It is the strongest aerospace industry outside the United States. It has over the last 10 years indulged in a tremendous amount of masochism about 615 itself and its future. Successive Governments have deluged it with plans—Plowden and now there is to be Marshall —and it is an industry which tends to turn in on itself and to query itself when it should be assisted by the Government to believe in itself and to exploit its capabilities.
This is not peculiar to the United Kingdom; it is something from which the United States also suffers. The environmental lobby in the United States managed to kill the American supersonic transport and, as Sir George Edwards said earlier today, the juggernaut of environmentalism overcame the whole of the scientific capability of the United States. This was a great shame and we should not regard the industry as a polluter in the way the industry often seeks to defend itself. It is not that. It is a remarkable industry employing the most virile brains in the country. It is an industry which, in terms of production in pounds sterling, surpasses any other type of industry in this country.
The industry is not just military or civil aviation, but is a composite of military and civil manufacturing and operating usage. Indeed in all about 1 million people are involved in the industry. Her Majesty's Government now and in the past ought to have taken much more responsibility in recognising that the Government are the prime customer of the industry. There is a need to recognise that the rôle should be that of pace-setter, rather than that the Government should be called upon to give it central planning. The industry does not need control from the Government. What it needs is recognition that the Government are the prime customer.
Everybody is delighted with the progress and promise of Concorde, and I hope the Prime Minister will still fly to Bermuda in it. It is interesting to see that the way in which the Concorde can develop is not just in terms of the aircraft itself. Sir George Edwards said today that this aircraft gives the United States the prospect of overcoming its environmentalist lobby and its effect on the aerospace industry by taking up with us the ability to continue Concorde as it now is and for the future to bring it forward as a new and better aircraft in an enlarged version.
616 The investment being made in Concorde now is not investment for all time. It is a trampoline from which the whole project will escalate as a means of excellent supersonic communication. At the same time we have to face the question of whether in civil aerospace we should consider the need or the duty of our airlines to buy one aircraft or another. Hawker Siddeley tell us that the A 300 is the aircraft B.E.A. ought to have. On the other hand, the Government have a duty to make sure that the RB 211 and the Tristar are exploited as far as possible. I hope the Government will leave it to the airlines—the customer —to make this decision. In the past airlines in this country have damned by their choice in the claims for subsidy the prospects of aircraft which otherwise could have been extraordinary successful.
We have been told by successive Governments that collaboration is essential to the future of the aerospace industry. There has been the welcome order for the Bulldogs and for the 11–28, both of which are entirely British projects and which prove to the British aircraft industry that it is capable of doing things on its own; it does not need politicians to tell it to collaborate. Collaboration has been involved in the Jaguar, the WG 13 and now the M.R.C.A. aircraft and this is what can be done if our manufacturers learn how to collaborate. It is a little sad to think that in the first instance collaboration was dictated by politicians rather than by the demands of the market. I will come on to that matter a little later.
It is a great shame that the Royal Navy has taken 10 years to carry out its trials on the value of the Harrier. I was on board "Ark Royal" when Harrier landed and took off from it back in the 1960s and, as one of my hon. Friends said earlier referring to trials on this same carrier last year, it is desperately disappointing to find that trials are still needed. The U.S. Navy never carried out a single carrier trial in order to decide they wanted the aeroplane, and nor did the U.S. Marine Corps. It is an excellent aircraft which ought to have the blessing of the Government with the order from the Royal Navy soon.
If there is some doubt in the Royal Air Force about whether they can provide cover for the Fleet, they should be 617 honest and admit that they cannot. There is a totally different concept in the operation of the Harrier and one which should be allowed to proceed quickly without obstruction from the R.A.F. about its duty to provide cover for the Fleet. The Harrier is a must for the Navy, and the sooner it is ordered the better for the sake of export orders.
I should like to look to the future. The aerospace industry always faces the problem that the time span of its projects is greater than that of any single Government. It takes from 15 years to get from research to production. My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) may decry Sir Barnes Wallis and his hypersonics. He must remember, if he quotes the "French Plan" that although it may take 10 or 20 years to come to these hypersonics it is essential that we conduct and construct a strategy which provides us with the ability to look into the future. It is for this that we should respect people like Sir Barnes Wallis who show us the need for a strategy rather than talking, from debate to debate, about what we do next.
In aircraft construction it is generally assumed that it is the airframe to which an engine is strapped and to which systems are later attached. In our strategy we must consider the value of always ascribing to the airframe manufacturer the leadership in design. In an aircraft such as the multi-rôle combat aircraft the systems make the aircraft possible. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State knows that I was in discussions with him for a long time about the placing of British systems in the multi-rôle combat aircraft. Collaboration can work meaningfully only if it is based on market demand rather than on what politicians believe the industry should be. Politicians showed the way through the industry into the Common Market. But at the end we must provide an aircraft which is workable, and this rests more on understanding and capability than the carving up by percentages of an aircraft programme.
This country's systems capability far exceeds the total systems capability of the whole of Western Europe. This should have been recognised by the previous Government when they chose to carve up the M.R.C.A. programme. I do not 618 doubt that the programme will be a great success. But it is important that if politicians are making decisions they should recognise capability rather than just subscribe to the desire of nationalism on the part of any country in Western Europe. There is no question about this.
If one looks at the way in which the French are supposed to be collaborating with us, while they cheerfully sign, through S.N.E.C.M.A., the aero-engine manufacturers of France, an agreement with the General Electric Company of the United States, at the same time protesting that we should always be involved with them, this is not an augury of goodwill for the future.
We must now allow ourselves to be put in a position where we construct political arrangements for the future which permit others to provide themselves with employment. We have heard talk about redundancies this evening. There will be nothing worse than to find that politicians, over the time span of an aircraft, have constructed arrangements which merely involve the automatic redundancy of workers in this industry because they can see no further than the need for statistics rather than looking at capability.
In the 1960s, this country's aerospace industry built up the French aerospace industry. In the 1970s, this country's aerospace industry will build up the German aerospace industry. In terms of British entry into the Common Market, we should be delighted. I hope that the end products are good. But we must not forget that ours is the second largest industry outside the United States. We must not throw that away. It is a unique capability and one which has become for many parts of the country the sole and almost the traditional industry.
One aspect about the future on which I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to comment is what we are to do about short take-off and landing and vertical take-off and landing aircraft. It is not just a matter of producing the aircraft. It is a matter of looking at the problem of the infrastructure—the system by which the aircraft will be operated. One has to concern oneself with the departure point, the arrival point, and the air traffic control in the middle. We have to look to the Government to give leadership 619 on how we are to tackle this problem, and I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to give us some information about it.
We need to know not only whether we are involved in the infrastructure study on V/STOL on our own or with Europe, or whether the United States want to be included. It is essential to try to arrive at international standards which will allow steep approaches and departures, and which will establish clearly that we want to get quiet engines operating and at what levels those engines must be seen and heard to be operating. I have in mind the type of programme followed by the Blind Landing Experimental Unit in this country, which took 25 years to produce a working landing system. I hope that this infrastructure study will take place far faster. It is a subject in which we have a distinct leadership, and one on which Europe will welcome our lead in setting up a Government study.
The means are available. Quiet engines are with us in the shape of the RB211. Quiet engines can be promoted by devices like the Dowty variable pitch entry turbine. We have the means. All that is necessary is for the technological knowledge to be brought together to provide the complete system.
My other point about the future was referred to by the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), who spoke about the space shuttle. We have a great deal of knowledge about how to deal with the problems of the space shuttle which derives from our knowledge of the operations of the Concorde. The ability to dispatch and deliver a very large vehicle from a supersonic speed is known in a way in which the Americans have no knowledge. This would be an excellent contribution for the country to make to the space shuttle programme.
We are at the brink of a new ability to use our knowledge of aerospace technology. I hope that the Government will recognise this and respond to the challenging opportunity of using British brains. For too long the industry has been the shuttlecock of politicians. All those in the industry remember the 1957 White Paper and the 1964 cancellations. I hope that the Government will recognise their duty to use the people of the industry in a way in which they want to be 620 used—as a spearhead challenging the frontiers of science.
§ Mr. Bishop
The hon. Gentleman seems to be rather cynical about the rôle of politicians in this matter. Mention has been made, by myself and by my hon. Friends, of the immense financial contribution to the industry made by the Government. As custodians of public money, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it is our function to try to understand the industry and exercise proper control of it. I believe that the hon. Gentleman and I are the only members of the Royal Aeronautical Society in the House. It is important that we should have people who can combine a knowledge of the industry with the kind of stewardship we have to exercise. After all, in the last year or so there have been a number of failures of management, the problems of which we are still dealing with.
§ Mr. Warren
I am delighted to appear as a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society rather than the Member of Parliament for Hastings. One of the reasons why I am in the House is that after 25 years in the industry I became fed up with politicians cancelling every project on which I worked. I remember vividly trying to run a factory with some 300 people in 1964 while the party opposite—now happily opposite—cancelled the TSR 2, the Hawker Siddeley 681 and the P1154, and continued to try to put me out of work. I can find no reason to be anything other than cynical about politicians. My experience subjectively has been very bad. Much as I admire the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop), with whom I am on remarkably good terms, neither he nor I ought to think well of politicians.
§ Mr. Warren
Since the war we have failed to use the ability of this industry. We have always tried to dictate to it; the industry has failed to stand up to this. Between the pair of us, the industry and the Government, we have got ourselves into a position which does not do justice to the people in the industry.
The debate is about the future of the British aerospace industry, and at last I hope that we have a chance for the industry and the Government—and both 621 sides of the House—to get together. We have a great industry, which we must develop. It is on the frontiers of science. It lives that way. It tries to contribute not only to the well-being of the nation, in the general sense of those words, but also to the challenge and the conquering of the challenge constantly presenting itself to the people on the drawing boards, the factory floor, the flight test sheds and in the air. The British people find this unique and satisfying. It is an industry well worth while.
I hope that the Government will look to the men and women in the industry in a way in which, perhaps, they have not been regarded in the past—as people who can in the long term greatly contribute to the strength of Britain and Britain's future in terms of our ability to produce a unique capability and one unequalled in Europe.
§ 11.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Bristol, North-East)
I start my remarks by answering a point made by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks). I apologise for mentioning the hon. Member in his absence, but as he is a man of integrity I know that he would not have wished to mislead the House in any way on the question of the 748 versus the Jetstream. The R.A.F. is looking for a replacement trainer and the choice of aircraft cannot be decided simply by picking on something which is available at the moment rather than going for the best possible project.
The engine in the Jetstream is French just now, but I understand from Scottish Aviation that if it gets an order from the R.A.F., Rolls-Royce will be capable of supplying the engine for this trainer. As for the Canadian components in the Scottish Aviation aircraft, these are far outweighed by the volume of exports which Scottish Aviation sends to Canada. It is, therefore, wrong to say that it is a question of the 748 versus the Jetstream, a foreign, or half-foreign, aircraft.
If we were completely to disregard the vehicle itself and just take something that happens to be British and available now, we might as well suggest that the R.A.F. buys VC10s from Weybridge and uses them as training vehicles. It would hardly be the most suitable aircraft, but 622 it might fulfil the requirements laid down by the hon. Member for Gorton.
I congratulate, in his absence, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace for the way in which he has grappled with the monumental problems bequeathed to him when the Labour Government left office. I also congratulate, as I have done in the Early Day Motion which I tabled today, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for not only flying in Concorde last Friday but for making such a firm commitment to the aircraft upon landing. In case he does not know, I want him to know that his remarks have completely transformed the atmosphere in the factories of Bristol and elsewhere where Concorde is being manufactured.
We are discussing the future of the aerospace industry for which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren) pointed out, long-term plans are essential. It is no use expecting a project which has taken 10 or 15 years to develop from the research and development stage to the sales stage to produce dividends in 10 minutes. If we were to listen to the dismal Jimmies who tell us that Concorde will never make money, I suspect that we should be listening to people without any knowledge of the potential and historic ability of the British aerospace industry not only in the matter of home sales, but in export sales.
By the end of July of this year the industry had achieved exports worth in excess of £188 million and there is no doubt that in the next 10, 20 or 30 years Concorde, its spare parts and technological spin-off from its development will, not only now but with the Olympus engine, keep us in a healthy economic situation because of its export value.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) referred to the example set by the French for its aircraft industry. I urge the Minister to take note of the commercial orientation of the French aerospace industry. The French decided that they would be in the airbus and supersonic business because, in their view, these were profitable areas for their industry and for the long-term employment of their work people, not to mention the possibility of these areas putting 623 them ahead and giving them the leadership in the aerospace industry. As hon. Members have said, only by planning ahead in this way can we remain in the mainstream of the civil aviation requirements of this country.
It would be wrong to think solely in terms of European or North American markets for our civil aerospace products. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace on having the foresight to go to Japan recently; and to realise the very great importance of the Japanese market to European and North American aerospace manufacturers in the years ahead. There is no doubt that the Japanese are great innovators, and appreciate perhaps more than any other nation something that is new. By visiting Japan, my right hon. Friend will have enhanced the interest of the Japanese and Japan Airlines in Concorde. Whilst we should all have liked to see B.O.A.C. the first airline flying Concorde, if Japan Airlines express a firm interest we believe to be the case, I am sure that none of us will wish to discourage them from signing a contract.
I know that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers) will later be talking rather more about Concorde and I do not wish to trespass on his preserve, but we will all agree that at the moment, as a result of the failure of successive Governments to stick to long-term plans for the British aerospace industry, the British aircraft industry is far too dependent on Concorde. We have too many eggs in one basket.
I therefore ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary to give serious thought to the development of short take-off and vertical take-off aircraft, and to make sure, with my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, that joint defence and civil use of all future projects is taken into account before the planning and development stages are reached. In this way, we can both save money and make money—save it at the beginning and make it in the end.
Of all industries, the aerospace industry is one of growth. Employment in it is employment which gives pleasure and pride of craftsmanship to the men on the shop floor. In these days of mass production, it is important to foster and 624 encourage in every way we can in all our industries the spirit of the pioneers who developed the first steam engine and had a real pride in their craftsmanship and in the industrial technology they were developing.
Not only is there pride in building these aircraft but great public satisfaction in seeing these achievements in the air. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Idris Owen) told me this evening that when it was announced that Concorde would fly past at the recent air show at Woodford, Cheshire, the organisers estimated that 125,000 people turned out to see it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) related the costs of Concorde to those of the RB211. We sometimes appear to be self-conscious about the costs involved in developing aircraft projects, but when we look, for instance, over the past 10 years we realise that British Rail has swallowed about £1,000 million of public money, with remarkably little to show for it in terms of exports. Money invested in the aerospace industry is a very good and worthwhile use of public funds.
It is comparatively easy to build the aircraft, if one has the brains. It is not so easy to sell them. I would ask my hon. Friend not to be too dogmatically involved with the determination to stay out of the marketing of projects like the Concorde. It does not make sense to spend large sums of public money on financing and producing a vehicle and then to say that selling it is up to the manufacturer. It is not realistic to expect airlines to place orders for Concorde until they receive—as they now have—firm and positive assurances from the manufacturing and financing Governments that that project will remain in existence for at least 20 years.
When the Minister for Aerospace gave his assurance in Burbank recently that the RB211 would be there for 20 years-plus, he was doing what he knew he had to do to give the airline customers of the Tristar the encouragement to place orders for this very expensive piece of equipment.
I asked my hon. Friend to do all he can to drop any masks of dogma which any of us may have over the marketing.
625 Perhaps when the British Exports Board starts its work in January, he will talk to it about the Government's rôle in using all available channels to assist with the marketing of these projects, in which so much public money is invested.
I emphasise again the importance of not allowing the world to get the impression that Concorde is a French aeroplane with a few British bits in it. The danger is not to our self-esteem hut that, five years' hence, when the Japanese, the Germans or the America ns are thinking of a major collaborative venture, they will think, in terms of design leadership, of talking first to the French rather than to us. This is why the Government should do everything they can to blow Concorde's trumpet as a great British achievement.
I have great admiration for what the French have done in this respect, but I was a little worried to read in the Evening Standard today the words of Henri Ziegler, referring to Aerospatiale and "Concorde's British contractor", the British Aircraft Corporation. Few of us who have taken an interest in the British aviation industry would find that an acceptable form of words. I only hope that it is a mistranslation.
I should like to say many things about marketing and the Government's responsibility to refute the wild, irresponsible and ill-informed so-called environmental arguments against Concorde and supersonic flight in general. So many of them say blatantly that Concorde will make an ear-splitting noise, yet they can see in today's HANSARD that, in answer to a Written Question from me, my hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace said that in terms of anti-social take-off and landing noise, about which we all complain, Concorde will be quieter than either the Boeing 707–320C or the DC 8–50.
Some say that Concorde will somehow mysteriously damage the environment. The Americans have been flying supersonically for well over a quarter of a century. They have clocked up over 550,000 supersonic flight hours and done innumerable tests. Yet, no one has produced a shred of scientific evidence that there is any of this so-called ozone damage to the environment.
Smoke emission in the United States is an enormous problem. Concorde will be 626 the first aircraft virtually to eliminate smoke emission from the skies of the world. This is a great technological achievement. It is a positive boon towards the preservation of the environment.
I maintain that it is very much part of the Government's duty to sing the praises of our supersonic aircraft and to take great care to ensure that those who would misrepresent and damage the prospects for our industry through its supersonic transport developments are not allowed to get away with some of the irresponsible rubbish which we see from time to time in the Press, generally coming from Oxford, Cambridge or the London School of Economics, and certainly not from those who have any practical experience of business, industry, or the aircraft industry.
I am conscious that in a debate of this nature one must finish one's ramblings. Therefore, I finally ask my hon. Friend to consider the employment opportunities which the aircraft industry can provide in future for this country. It can provide satisfactory terms of work and potential for sales overseas and, with careful planning, it could solve today's unemployment by starting tomorrow's projects now.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Tebbit (Epping)
I should like to begin my contribution to the debate, which is so welcome, by, somewhat unusually perhaps, declaring a near constituency non-interest in aviation. Very few of my constituents are employed in the aircraft industry. Those who are employed in it are mostly associated with the electronics industry or sub-contracting. Therefore, we have nearly a non-interest. However, all of us have that interest in hearing a little less about the industry as we are trying to sleep in our beds or are sitting in our gardens. We all have that great interest in the quiet aeroplane.
I hope that my hon. Friend will take the opportunity to go round to the Department of the Environment and, if he sees the Secretary of State, plant the idea that it would be very welcome to everybody if Foulness were phased out in favour of technical development of quieter aeroplanes.
I am neither employed in, nor do I own any part of, any company in the 627 industry, so I should like to comment briefly on the HS 748 Jetstream controversy. I understand that the Jetstream answers absolutely perfectly the specification which the Royal Air Force issued. It is the aeroplane which, if it is supported, can start on a new and successful life of selling overseas and, indeed, in this country. If it is not supported by a Royal Air Force order, I fear that production of the Jetstream is at an end, and that will mean the loss of 300 or 400 jobs that could be created at Scottish Aviation.
I think that Hawker Siddeley's constituency Members are right to push the interest of the 748, and of course, we understand that, but the choice should go to the Jetstream. I hope that those hon. Members who have pushed the 748 tonight will be there to push again if more orders come from the Hawker-Siddeley Nimrod, without worrying too much about the political colour of the country that might order it, so long as it is a Power friendly to Great Britain.
I am dispassionate in these matters, except that I know that the United Kingdom has only one real asset—its people and their skills. It is in the City and in advanced industries such as aerospace that those skills get the highest gearing in the business of converting low-cost materials into high-cost finished products.
I should like to refer briefly to the recently-published Report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which is our fifth. But first I would pay tribute to the Chairman of the Sub-Committee that produced the report, the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer). It was a pleasure to me and everyone else concerned to work with him in producing the report.
I do not want to pre-empt all that will be said when we debate the report. I know that the Government will want to give time for a debate. But I would point out to my hon. Friend the Minister that the members of the Select Committee felt impelled to use a phrase which seemed to them to convey the flavour of successive Governments' policies in the space industry. It was:Not so much a programme….The rest we left to the imagination of my hon. Friend.
628 With my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) and the hon. Members for Bristol, Central and Shored itch and Finsbury (Mr. Ronald Brown) I went as far as Australia earlier this year looking for the Government's programme. We might just as well have been on the hunting of the Snark.
We know that my hon. Friend has followed the Select Committee's deliberations closely, but I will take the chance to press upon him certain of the matters considered. The first is the one to which the hon. Member for Bristol, Central has already referred, the paramount need for a single independent space agency. I do not believe that the present fragmented approach will ever end the decline in our industrial capacity in this field relative to other countries. We need a body other than the industry or the enthusiasts to seek out opportunities for the utilisation of space technology, if we want to sell our ability. We cannot be happy with a situation in which there is no body with the task of seeking chances for the industry to serve its principal customer, the Government, better and in ways that its principal customer has not even thought of yet.
Nor do we have any body suitable to recommend policy, for example, on possible United Kingdom participation in the post-Apollo programme and to see that the recommendation is carried out. The space shuttle will revolutionise the design of satellites and reduce their cost for given tasks and so enlarge man's capacity in space, and his capacity to launch manned or unmanned voyages of exploration, that no country such as ours, with a history of commerce and exploration, can dream of standing aside from that programme. If we do, we shall put ourselves in the position of being not just a small technological country but a smalltime technological country.
Many of the techniques that will be used in the shuttle are essential to the development of hypersonic aircraft beyond Concorde. We should be unwise to the edge of folly if we failed to exploit and extend Concorde techniques and to have a share in the technological fall-out that will be employed in hypersonic transports.
Nor, I would suggest, can the learning of the management discipline which N.A.S.A. and the American industry, demonstrated so frequently in the Apollo 629 programme, fail to benefit our industry if we join the project, and, indeed, if our space agency learnet from the Americans it might well teach some of what it learnt to some parts of the Government machine.
I touch briefly on one other facet of Government support, particularly tonight for the aerospace industry but to some extent for all industry and commerce. Support does not always have to be in the form of money and, of course, one has to put one's money where one's mouth is. Equally, the Government has to be willing to put its mouth where it has put its money. Thank God, in the past our Governments knew that. Supposing that, 200 years ago, we had had the type of Government we have had more recently. What would have happened to Greenwich Mean Time or the placing of the zero meridian? It would not have gone through Greenwich but would have wriggled through the United Nations and probably have ended up in the United States. Fortunately, it did not and the result is that it is one of the world's standards. That is Greenwich is where all maps and time start from.
Thirty years ago, we were using in the Royal Air Force Rebecca D.M.E., or Rebecca Eureka. Twenty years ago, I used it both in the R.A.F. and in airline flying. Then we gave it up. The Americans said that it was not a good standard aid and we agreed. Once we had given it up, they invented it. A little while ago, B.O.A.C. was carrying as an experiment the airborne radio teletypewriter. We backed it and gradually developed it. Then we abandoned it and forgot it. Given a little more time, the Americans are about to invent it, we shall accept it as another standard aid and they will produce it.
It does not cost much money to back in international conferences British industry, but it costs a hell of a lot of money not to do so. We did not back the Decca navigational aid. B.E.A. has equipped its aircraft with the Decca aid to come in and out of London Airport. What advantage does it get from it? Does it get special routeings which would put it ahead of non-Decca-equipped aircraft? Does it hell! It does not get the commercial advantage out of it that it should have. We have the same story, we sus- 630 pect, on the placing of contracts for the electronics of the M.R.C.A.
Many of us believe that we do not push our industrial interest hard enough in the conferences. We very nearly managed to do the same thing with Concorde itself. We very nearly managed to spend money and then not get any of the credit. So do not only let us try to exploit with money but with some of the ruthless commercial skill of the Americans and the political skill of the French, because the game is not to let others grow fat on our money—it is for us through our political skill to grow fat and prosperous on our own money.
Let the Treasury know that when we ask for support we do not only mean money in terms of launching aid. We mean support from the Government at every level through the Foreign Office in every conference on every standard aid, and that we should never give away a "quid" unless we get a "quo".
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. William Rodgers (Stockton-on-Tees)
My contribution is in a sense schizophrenic because although I speak from the Front Bench I might as readily be speaking from a back bench and my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) might well have made his speech from the Front Bench. That rather complicated explanation is by way of introduction to the fact that the subject I had originally intended to raise rather later in our proceedings has now been subsumed with this debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Cray-ford (Mr. Wellbeloved) raised an important point about the proceedings in this debate when he asked whether it was right that any reversal should take place once a ballot has determined the order of our debates. It seems that this is a matter to be considered by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or by our Committee on Procedure.
It might be that we should ballot for the class and the number with a subject as a sub-title in the knowledge that our debates would be grouped by class and number, which seems nothing but good sense, and precedence would be determined in that way. I should not have thought of speaking at this stage had it not been clear that it would be for 631 the general convenience, bearing in mind that a number of hon. Members were perfectly entitled to speak on Concorde under this heading.
I welcome the debate introduced by my hon. Friend in what I thought was a studiously non-partisan speech. His concern was partly to emphasise the need for a full day's debate, I hope in Government time, to examine in greater detail the problems we have touched on tonight. I am sure that the response from both sides of the House at this late hour is an indication of how much there is to be discussed. The new White Paper on public expenditure, Command 4829, shows that we are likely to spend something like £850 million over the period covered by the White Paper on civil aerospace. In these circumstances it seems right that we should discuss it in the round and at greater length than is now possible.
I will not comment on the typically thoughtful speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) dealing with his own Select Committee, to which the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) referred, nor do I intend to enter into the Hawker Siddeley Jetstream controversy. This is precisely the sort of matter for the Government of the day to solve and one which the Opposition are wise to keep out of. I am conscious that there is no clear view in industry or the House of what is the future of the industry. As the hon. Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson) said, this is due largely to the open-ended commitment—I am not quarrelling with this—over Concorde and Rolls-Royce. Unless the Government are exceedingly careful we shall lose an important part of the time available to us, simply because the costs, being open-ended, have meant that a Government have not felt able to turn their mind to the development of other projects.
I should like to see Governments pursuing a far greater initiating rôle in aerospace than hitherto. I do not necessarily mean that they should embark on more projects. I take the view that there should be better financial control than there has been under any Government. It is right that Governments should get together with the industry and 632 try to look, in 1971, at the shape of the industry in the 1980s, what its size will be and what its structure ought to be, particularly in relation to the European industry.
My main concern is with certain aspects of Concorde, and I want to deal with this now. May I make clear what I am not questioning? I am not concerned with the wisdom of the original decision. We all know that initially it was thought that Concorde would cost between £150 million and £170 million to develop, until fully proven. We may all have doubts whether the estimates were carefully examined at the time or whether the priorities were right. We may also have doubts, and the hon. Member for Epping had something here, about whether the terms of the agreement with the French over Concorde were right. There are times in international relations for brutality short of war. Sometimes in our relations with the French I feel that we have not gone close enough to the brink, with the result that they have gained advantages which should have been ours. We can be tough and yet have a fair outcome. I am not concerned with such arrangements as may have been made. They were examined by the Estimates Committee in its Second Report as long ago as 1963.
Secondly, I am not concerned with the process of escalation under successive Governments. There has been an absence of ministerial and parliamentary control. Whatever we may think of Concorde, and although we may wish to see it succeed, our duty as parliamentarians is to recognise that it is right for Parliament to make conscious decisions and not be bounced into them.
The Public Accounts Committee, in its Fifth Report in 1966–67, said that the cost of Concorde was likely to be £500 million or rather higher. As we know from what the Secretary of State said last May, £885 million is the figure talked about now. But the Minister was candid in saying the other day that he would not commit himself to that figure. The total research and development costs will be over £1,000 million. I am not disputing that figure; I am saying that there are lessons for Parliament here which we, in our interests as well as those of the industry, should learn.
633 Thirdly, I want to say how much all of us who stood on the outside appreciate and respect the dedication of all those involved in the design, development and construction of Concorde. It is always a pleasure to see people who believe in what they are doing and gain great pleasure and satisfaction from it. They have every right to be proud of their achievement, and I pay my tribute to everybody concerned, from the most junior apprentice to Brian Trubshaw.
Fourthly, I do not doubt the importance of this aircraft to the aircraft industry and employment. The figure of 26,000 has been mentioned as being the number of those directly employed in building Concorde, and we know that there are many others. The consequences of any cancellation now, as at any other time in recent history, would be catastrophic.
Fifthly, I do not doubt the potential for supersonic travel or the passenger attraction of Concorde. All of us who have made long journeys round the world know the total monotony of travelling to, say, Australia or even across the Atlantic. Certainly Concorde will till the top end of the market, but it will be more successful in its initial stages in terms of passenger attraction than the Jumbos, which are white elephants in the present state of the airline market. I found Concorde to be a very pleasant plane from a passenger's point of view.
Finally, I entirely endorse the Government's decision to put all their weight behind Concorde. Whatever view one may have taken at any stage or may take about the history, if we are to go ahead with it, for heaven's sake do it in a businesslike way. What the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) said about marketing was right. If Concorde is on, let us put everything behind it and sell it to those who will buy it.
I am concerned with a different matter, and I hope that insofar as I have carried the House with me on these matters it will recognise that it has a right to know a great deal about he situation which we now envisage. The House has a right to know the selling price of Concorde and the factors and assumptions involved. I had some sympathy with the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Warren), who, from his experience of the industry, complained of the actions of the Government. It 634 was enterprising of him, having complained from the outside, to get in and play his part. But my hon. Friend the Member for Newark made an important point. As far as public money is involved in the private sector, we may argue about how much should be involved and we may complain about stop-start policies of all Governments; but we have a responsibility for control which we cannot in any circumstances surrender. That is why I am concerned that the House should know about these matters now.
First, Concorde is our property. There is a vast public investment in it. It does not belong to B.A.C. or to the Government; it belongs to every taxpayer who has contributed and will contribute to it. Secondly, it is for the House of Commons, in its rôle as a check on the Executive, to esure that there are proper safeguards involved in whatever contracts are taken out.
Thirdly, there is the broader principle of parliamentary control, and, here again, there is a large measure of agreement on both sides of the House. I remember that when I was in Government and the Minister for Aerospace was in Opposition he often demanded more openness. I shared his view then, and I would like to believe that I played my part in ensuring more openness. He has been candid for the most part as long as he has been a Minister, and we have valued and respected that. This openness must continue. It is an important principle of parliamentary life. This should be so, and it is important that there should be on concealment.
Fourthly, there is the question, what is there to lose? I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State replies, if he finds it necessary to do so, he will explain precisely what can be lost if the information for which I am asking is made available. Sitting in a seat in a Department I was often told, "Minister, it would be better not to say." When I asked "Why?" I was told, "Well, there is commercial confidence involved." When I asked, "What do you mean by that?" then time and time again I did not get a satisfactory reply. I hope the Under-Secretary will not accept such advice. The fact is that the House of Commons should be told; there should be no unreasonable sheltering behind the argument of commercial confidentiality.
§ Mr. Adley
On this point of publicly announcing the price at this stage, would the hon. Gentleman not agree that the Government have a responsibility, as he rightly said, to the taxpayer? This being so, might it not be vital to the securing of future orders that at this stage there should be confidentiality by those selling this piece of equipment should they, in their own best judgment, decide that it would be better not to emblazon the price across the pages of the newspapers—at the very beginning of selling of the product? At that time is there not a case for holding one's cards very close to the chest? I have myself been involved in the exporting business and in trying to sell a product for a large sum, and I know that there are many occasions when one does not want to lay out the price on the table for all to see.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I think that if the hon. Member reflects on what I shall be saying in a minute he may agree with me that the circumstances of this case are different from those of selling a product in a competitive atmosphere—if the hon. Member will follow what I am about to say; and perhaps we may hear from the Under-Secretary of State about it, too. I am arguing that commercial confidentiality is often used as a cloak, and I think that, in this case, despite what the hon. Member says, it should not be employed.
What are the determining factors in the selling price? The first is, presumably—and I simply run through them quickly, and the Under-Secretary will add or subtract as he thinks fit—the direct of cost of manufacture and production, and I will include the cost of marketing; second how much, if any, to be written off; thirdly, the length of the production line and, therefore, unit costs; fourth, financing of the production, with interest and purchasing charges; fifth, the question of spares; sixth, any other future development of Concorde.
I cannot see at the moment why these factors cannot be spelt out, and I will return to this in a moment. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury had an interesting, if slightly oblique, thing to say in the debate we had on 9th December on public expenditure when I had raised this question. He said:I think he"—636 meaning myself—had a genuine point of principle when he talked about the method of handling public money invested in a concern such as that in the private sector with international implications and said that it ought to be looked into."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th December, 1971; Vol. 827, c. 1632.]I am not sure exactly what that means, but I gather that was a sentence, if rather muddled, of good will, and if it is in fact the case that the Chief Secretary agrees with me on the principle which I set out in my speech on that occasion certainly I cannot see why the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry should not be able to help us tonight. Quite clearly, somebody knows what the price is, and my complaint is that somebody knows but not the British House of Commons. There has been speculation for the last year on a figure of between 27 million and 31 million dollars —roughly speaking, between £11 million and £12½ million. On Friday last, the Financial Times discussed the possibility of a figure unlikely to be less than £12 million. Next, Aviation World, which is normally a fairly reliable source of information, printed on Monday this week a headline,Concorde price set at £31.2 million dollarsand there was a substantial and convincing story.
Today, on the tape, we had some further information. At 12.38, we had the report on the tape,Paris, Wednesday. The Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliners will cost about £14 million, the head of French manufacturers of the plane announced today".At 12.57, there came a correction saying that the figure was about £13 million.
That is where it rested until we saw the Evening Standard and read what Mr. Henri Ziegler had said. I read the same speech as the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East read. I quote the Evening Standard report, dated Paris, today:The president of Aerospatiale, the French partner in Concorde, today announced that the unit price of the jetliner would be £12½ million. Henri Ziegler said the price was based on dollar parities before today's first rush of fluctuation following the announcement yesterday by President Nixon that the dollar would be devalued in an overall realignment of world currencies.Ziegler also told newsmen that the first six Concorde production aircraft are now guaranteed for delivery in October, 1974.637 Prima facie, here is a case of the head of Aerospatiale telling news men in Paris what the Minister for Aerospace refused to tell the House of Commons last week.
Did Mr. Ziegler make that statement? If he did, is the figure correct? If the answer is "Yes", why did he give a figure to newsmen in Paris which has been denied to the House of Commons; and, in any case, what is the meaning of these strange proceedings? I cannot for a moment believe that the Under-Secretary of State will say that he does not quite know what happened. There is good telephonic communication between London and Paris, and I take it that he knows exactly what Mr. Ziegler said, and why he said it.
Either—I have to put it as strongly as this—there is contempt of Parliament by the Minister, in which case we should have a full explanation and apology, or there is contemptuous treatment of the British Government by our French partners on Concorde. I should prefer to believe that it was the second, but I wish I did not have to believe either. I should like to believe that the Minister would not deny to the House what was to be given to reporters in Paris today.
It is right that I should ask, and that the House should ask, for a firm figure. It is right that I should ask, and that the House should ask, for an unequivocal explanation of these extraordinary events. It is right that I should ask—and I am asking now—for some fuller explanation of the equation involved.
There are several factors here, and I shall give them briefly. First, I want to know about the assumption on total sales. Is it the 150 to 200 mentioned at the beginning, when the Public Accounts Committee was told that the selling price of Concorde would be £3 million to £4 million? If that is not the assumption in determining the unit price, what is the assumption: how many are expected to be sold?
Second, how much R. and D. is to be written off in the price? Mr. Ziegler, apparently, referred to a base price today, implying that there was no R. and D. content in the figure of £12½ million. If that is so, what is the Government's later intention? I am not arguing that any of the R. and D. should be written off. As I say, the Minister has been frank 638 in making clear to the House that we can have no high expectations. I simply ask for the facts.
Third, what guarantees are being given, or will be given, to the manufacturers if the actual unit cost exceeds the price agreed with the airlines? Who pays? Will the airlines be given a price subject to an escalation clause; or, if they are not given an escalation clause, will the British Government and the French Government provide some guarantee if the actual production cost exceeds the estimates?
Fourth, what about the amount of loans to manufacturers for production aircraft? The Under-Secretary will know Table 2.7 in White Paper Cmnd. 4829 which sets out the figures for trade, industry and employment over the period from 1970–71, for which we have a provisional out-turn, to 1975–76. It seems to me that a net figure of about £174 million has been set aside for loans for production aircraft. I may have misread this total and paragraph 10, and I should be grateful if the Under-Secretary will correct me if I have. Will he say whether this net figure is also a gross figure, or whether there is some element here for receipts from Concorde sales? If there are not receipts for Concorde sales included in the table, when do we expect the receipts to show? It would also help to know how many aircraft this loans figure covers, and what will be the rate of interest.
Fifth, I should like to know what formula has been agreed for spares. It is the normal practice, with which the House will be familiar, that aircraft manufacturers price down their aircraft and price up their spares. It would be interesting to know whether this has been done here. Again, it is an open custom well understood in the industry on which no question of commercial confidentiality can possibly arise. Any airline buying Concorde will surely do its own sums and will know exactly the sort of deal which has been made.
Sixth, will present option holders buy at a favourable price, and what will be the differential between the price for the first 74 and the price other airlines, or the same airlines, will pay for subsequent aircraft?
639 Seventh, is there to be any subsidy to B.O.A.C. or Air France to help them buy or operate? The Minister has made clear in the past that this was not his intention, and I hope that this will not be the case for a variety of reasons we all agree and understand. If there is to be no subsidy, will loans be made available to B.O.A.C., and at what rate?
What I am asking for is the full agreed formula for the sale of Concorde and the area still to be settled. I assume on the basis of what the Minister said, and what Mr. Ziegler said today, progress was made in Paris last week. How much progress, in what direction, and what is the gap still to be closed?
I have carefully reflected on the point raised by the hon. Member for Bristol North-East about commercial considerations, but we must recognise that this aircraft is being sold in wholly unusual conditions. There is a single product and there is not a realistic competitor available to it. We know that the two airlines which will buy it are State airlines which have obligations also to the taxpayer. We know that there are special problems with any project in which two Governments are involved. This is an overwhelming reason why the House of Commons must know. It would be shameful if the House of Commons were to be denied information which is freely passing between others—the airlines, for example—or is being given to newsmen in Paris or elsewhere.
We want increasing openness in Government. It is the job of this Government and every other to reveal, not to conceal, and the more this is done the more the House of Commons will be able to debate these matters intelligently and the more likely it is that the aerospace industry will get a fair deal.
§ 12.29 a.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. David Price)
The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) opened the debate with a probing speech. His speech was followed by the speeches of nine other hon. Members who were equally in a probing mood. If I were to answer every one of the questions asked by the hon. Member for Newark, let alone all those of the other nine hon. Members, in the depth which their speeches entirely deserve, my speech 640 would be too long for the patience of the House. At least four separate speeches would have to be made, and I promise that I shall attempt only one.
I know that all hon. Members who have taken part in this debate will agree that the future of our aerospace industries will be, and inevitably must be, determined by international developments, present and future.
There are two factors of major significance which I believe will be determining for the future of our own industry. The first is the world recession in civil aerospace which is upon us. Airlines are suffering from over-capacity and low profitability; manufacturers who are coming to the end of established production lines are necessarily cautious as to the successor aircraft which should be developed; research and development costs for new aircraft continue to rise spectacularly. Technically impressive new products are experiencing great difficulty in establishing themselves as marketable ventures and manufacturers abroad are as concerned at the current downturn in the market as we are ourselves.
It is worth pointing out that the industrial giants of the American aircraft industry have suffered great financial difficulties and some have made enormous cut-backs. One of the results of this recession is that the nature and scale of the market for aerospace projects is being examined with even greater care by manufacturers before they will commit themselves to a new project.
Traditionally, the manufacturers of civil aircraft and aero-engines have, in their competition for the commercial prizes, striven mainly for size and speed. In the past the market has been prepared to pay for speed and size, which were the key qualities which the market sought. Today manufacturers can no longer take this situation for granted. As air travel has become more sophisticated, so the qualities for which passengers are prepared to pay are changing. We have moved beyond the pioneering age of making things fly safely and quickly. The concern now is with operating economics within a total transportation system. The brute fact is that, however technically attractive a project may be, if it is commercially a failure, it is the industry, its workpeople and the financial backers who will suffer—and the results may not take long to be felt.
641 I believe that the British aircraft industry has come to terms with the situation. I believe it is to be congratulated on its sense of responsibility in the restraint it is showing in undertaking thorough market research, instead of seeking to launch new projects for which market prospects are unproven.
However, this side of the picture should not be painted too black. The pause in the growth of air traffic will not continue for ever. I believe that over the next 10 to 15 years we shall see a continuing growth in the travel demand which will lead to markets for aerospace products in the 1980s far larger than the world has yet seen. Taking the long view, the present period brings us both the need and time to reshape the industry and its programmes to meet the challenges of the future.
This brings me to the second great consideration which will determine the future of the industry. This, of course, is the expected entry of the United Kingdom into the enlarged European Community. This factor was touched upon by the hon. Member for Newark. Since the Plowden Report in 1965, industry and Government alike have recognised the importance to the industry's future of ever closer cross-frontier links with European industry. The collaborative projects in which we are currently engaged have taken us some way down the road towards the goal of an integrated European industry. Very valuable lessons have been learned, but I think we need to move well beyond ad hoc collaboration on particular projects to some more permanent form of industrial association.
For the long-term future I believe we must think seriously of the possibilities of internationalised companies with, ideally, intergrated managements, finance and physical resources operated with optimum efficiency in our mutual interests. The hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer) made very much the same point in relation to European space activities.
We can expect that with the strengthening of bonds with the Common Market countries which will follow our entry into the enlarged Community, the move towards industrial integration should receive a political and psychological boost. The 642 harmonisation of taxation systems, company law and administrative procedures which we hope will follow, should make the process both easier and more equitable than it has often been in the past.
The recent Anglo-French agreement on the selling price of Concorde is a clear sign that once the will is there all the technical problems of collaboration can be overcome, and a project which is technically a world leader can be successfully brought to the production, commercial and operational stages. None of us has any doubt that longer production lines, less duplication of expensive research and development and greater strength of industrial organisation are the means by which our industry could be competitive and profitable on a world scale. Closer co-operation is, I am sure, the key.
It is against this background that the Government's policy towards the industry is currently under review. I say this with greatest respect to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) and one or two of my hon. Friends who say there have been too many reports on the industry. I put it to them that it is in this context that we are currently carrying out our internal review.
The present recession, although it is creating short-term difficulties which I would not for a moment minimise, gives the industry a chance to draw breath and prepare itself for the challenge of Europe. I would emphasise that the difficulties and shortage of new work have not been created by any deliberate policy of the Government. This Administration has secured, often in the face of considerable difficulties, the successful continuation of the three major projects currently being undertaken by the industry—Concorde, the M.R.C.A. and the RB211 engine. We do not overlook either the achievements and potential of the industry in economic and trading terms. We are convinced that in the long term there will continue to be a growing and important market for its products. The Government has always said that it remains ready and willing to put up launching aid for any appropriate civil projects which the industry may propose.
Looking ahead one sees obvious technological possibilities in such areas as quiet aircraft and radically improved field performance. On the latter, no one 643 who has any interest in aviation can fail to be excited by the various technical possibilities of variants of V/STOL. But here we must recognise that much more is involved than a vehicle, important and challenging though that undoubtedly is. This has come out clearly in our exchanges at question time. The effective application of really short or vertical takeoff techniques must be seen in the context of an entire transportation system and clearly this subject calls for careful study, not prejudiced by expecting too much too soon.
I know some of our major firms are experiencing difficulties now that established production runs will soon be ending and where there are no obvious successor projects. I sympathise with them and particularly with those who lose their jobs as a result of the pause in the aviation world. But I know they will understand that any action which government might take in these circumstances would need to have regard for the future prospects of the firm and its employees as well as for short term considerations.
To support the launching of a new project in the absence of clear market prospects cannot be the answer. The firm concerned would find a substantial proportion of its own resources tied up in a loss-making project, the cost of which the rest of the company would have to bear. The results could be disastrous, both to the firm and to its workpeople and they might not take long to be felt. No one would expect the aircraft industry to be free of risks. It is not in the nature of the business. But the risks must be assessed and weighed with fine commercial judgment.
The hon. Member for Newark, my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East (Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson), my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Marks), among others, asked about the state of employment in the industry. The facts are that employment in the industry has been declining slowly but continuously during the last decade or so. Now at some 225,000, it is about 25 per cent. below the 1961 total. I confirm roughly the figures given by the hon. Member for Newark for this year. Something of the 644 order of 2,500 fewer people are employed in the industry.
The hon. Member for Newark and many others asked what I thought the long-term employment prospects were. I cannot hazard a figure. It depends on future trends in the world market, which are singularly difficult to estimate for reasons that I have indicated already. I cannot do better than remind hon. Members of what the Plowden Committee said in its Report published in December, 1965:The size of the industry should be a reflection of the amount of work it succeeds in obtaining. It is not possible to give an estimate of the likely future levels of employment.Under this Government, as under the Government of our predecessors, it has remained true that the long-term employment level in the industry must depend mainly on its ability to win orders in the world market. I noticed that my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow, East supported that view.
Let there be no doubt that the present difficulties on the civil side of the industry derive largely from the world-wide recession affecting aerospace manufacturers and operators alike. Certainly they are not due to any change in Government policy. In their policies for granting launching aid to promising civil aerospace programmes, in the Concorde project and in our support for Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited, the Government have given a large measure of support. It is worth reminding ourselves that, since 1960, Government assistance to the industry on the civil side in the form of launching aid, special grants, and the civil aerospace research programme has totalled over £1,000 million at 1971 prices. Currently, support is continuing to run at a level of about £100 million a year. All this is additional to the substantial defence expenditure in the industry, research, development and procurement currently running at over £300 million a year.
As I have said, the Government have declared themselves willing to examine carefully any new requests for launching aid which firms may put forward. Employment considerations as well as the technical, financial and commercial prospects of a project would be of importance in shaping the Government's judgment about whether assistance was merited.
645 But, in the last analysis, we must all realise that success can come only from building aircraft which are not only technically excellent but which can be sold in the world market.
The hon. Member for Newark referred to the Rothschild and Dainton Reports. They have been published as a Green Paper, of course. The contractor-customer relationship which is adumbrated in the Rothschild Report is well established in the aerospace business. One could argue that this is what the old Ministry of Aviation was all about.
A good deal of reference has been made to both the Nimrod and the Harrier. Both were praised by my hon. Friends the Members for Walthamstow, East and Bradford, West. They demanded further orders for the Nimrod and for the Harrier, especially for the naval version of the Harrier. These are essentially matters for my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, but I shall bring my hon. Friend's strong views to his attention.
The question of a replacement for the Varsity was raised by the hon. Members for Newark and Manchester, Gorton. Again, this is entirely a matter for the Ministry of Defence. But the Government have declared in principle their willingness to place defence contracts to stimulate the economy. Equally, we must ensure that the help given is as effective as possible, not only in maintaining or increasing employment, but also in producing equipment which meets Service requirements. As it is not the responsibility of my Department, that is all that I can say, except that I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) that those who want to argue the case for the Hawker Siddeley answer to this particular requirement do not increase their case for the HS 748 by trying to knock Scottish Aviation.
The hon. Member for Bristol, Central and my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Tebbit) referred to the Select Committee report on United Kingdom space activities. We are studying it with great interest and shall reply in reasonable time. The hon. Member for Bristol, Central will know that I, as a former colleague of his on that admirable Select Committee, can promise him that 646 in so far as I have anything to do with it, there will be no unnecessary delay. I recall experiences in the past when he and I, sitting on that Committee, felt that Governments were not always as expeditious in replying to its admirable reports as we would have wished.
I come to the matters raised by the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. William Rodgers). He has asked a number of very important questions about the selling price of Concorde. I will try to be as helpful as I can, but I doubt whether I shall be able to satisfy him and I shall be perfectly frank about this before coming to the points I want to make.
As the House knows, at the meeting in Paris on 7th December, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace and M. Chamant, the French Minister of Transport, agreed the pricing policy to be adopted by the manufacturers in their negotiations with prospective customers for Concorde. This decision was based on proposals submitted by the four manufacturing firms, namely B.A.C. and Rolls-Royce in this country and S.N.I.A.S. and S.N.E.C.M.A. in France. Their proposals were made only after complex discussions between the four commercial partners. The next step is for the manufacturers to formulate their contract proposals within the guidelines now agreed by the two Governments. The actual price at which Concorde will be sold will depend upon the outcome of these further negotiations between the manufacturers and airlines.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees asked some very telling questions relating to the premises upon which our two Governments arrived at their pricing policy. In spite of the case he deployed, I am afraid that I cannot reveal to the House either the premises or the formula. With complete sincerity, I say that I will pass back the hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend; but I am not in a position to answer this question. I assure the House that my inability to reveal this information arises out of no discourtesy to the House but rather out of a desire to see the project succeed.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace said, in answer to a supplementary question from the right hon. 647 Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) as recently as 8th December:I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we are about to embark on commercial negotiations in which it will be in no one's interest to announce those figures."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1971; Vol. 827, c. 1303.]That is why I believe that it would be entirely counter-productive for me to speculate upon the basic selling price in advance of the negotiations which the manufacturers are having with the airlines. It is for these reasons that M. Chamant and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace agreed that it would be contrary to the joint interests of the two Governments supporting the programme to make any disclosures which might inhibit the manufacturers in gaining a fair price for the aircraft.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
Would the hon. Gentleman clarify this matter? Is he saying that these figures cannot be given now because there must be further discussions between the manufacturers, which would leave open the question whether he would give us the figures later, or is he saying that we shall not know the figures even when the airlines know them? I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it would be an intolerable situation if the Chairman of B.O.A.C. had knowledge of figures which was still being denied to this House. Is the hon. Gentleman pleading delay or an absolute requirement that the House of Commons will not be told even when it is common knowledge?
§ Mr. Price
I do not think there is as much between us as the hon. Gentleman may think. We have been talking about base prices, but in fact no one price is applicable to each potential contract. There cannot be one price in the way that ordinary products are priced. According to the needs of each customer airline, there will be variations in the aircraft, and some of the factors to which the hon. Gentleman referred, such as guarantees, will vary from one airline to another.
In other words, the fact that there might be a price for one airline does not mean that that price will apply precisely in the same terms to another because these contracts are complex, particularly when 648 the whole question of guarantees is involved.
I come to the questions of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees about what one might call the parameters within which these prices can be negotiated. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will talk tomorrow with my right hon. Friend to see if it is possible—I can say no more than this now—at a suitable moment for more information to be given, but I emphasise that in the recent agreement between my right hon. Friend and M. Chamant, it was agreed that these matters would not be currently disclosed.
The hon. Gentleman referred to a reported statement today by General Ziegler that the price of Concorde would be £12½ million. In fact, the report I saw on the tape was £13 million. But I utter a word of caution. Too much should not be read into this report in view of what I have said about there not being one price. The eventual price to any airline will depend on the outcome of the negotiations, and they will have to take into account a number of factors including, for example, special modifications or additions that may be required by the airline for its particular use of Concorde. It would, therefore, be wrong to prejudice the outcome of the negotiations by commenting on the possible selling price.
§ Mr. William Rodgers
Is the Minister saying that General Ziegler spoke out of turn and without authority?
§ Mr. Price
I do not know. The hon. Gentleman seems to know more than I do about the precise circumstances in which General Ziegler was alleged to have been speaking. I have only seen the reports which appeared on the tape earlier this afternoon. I have done my best to have inquiries instituted, and I confess that at the point when I entered the Chamber, nothing new had reached me. I therefore have not been able to clarify the circumstances under which General Ziegler made these reported remarks.
Hon. Members will see that I am at a disadvantage in this matter. If anything had been made official, I should have thought it would have been disclosed to hon. Members before being disclosed to the Press at large. Certainly it is normal, when information of this nature is being given to the Press, for it to be given to the House at least at the same time.
§ Mr. Bishop
I do not want to accuse the Minister of talking nonsense about the pricing of Concorde, except to assure him that everybody knows that for a run of aircraft the price is bound to vary according to the requirements of the customer. When we have spoken about aircraft in the past—for example, about the F111—we have known the figure in round terms. Surely the same figure, allowing for variations, could be given in this case. Or is the Minister saying that if my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees puts on a different hat and says that he is a potential customer for Concorde he will be given the price, whereas if he says he is an M.P. he will be told to mind his own business because it is not his concern?
§ Mr. Price
I do not think that it is as simple as that. These are not just very minor variations. As I understand it, some potential customers may want quite considerable modifications for their machines. Particularly when one comes to the whole question of guarantees this factor is by no means unimportant, because, obviously, the tougher the guarantees that have to be given by the manufacturers the higher the prices they will try to negotiate.
If I were in the position of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees I would have said many of the things he said, but I am in no position tonight to help him or the House any further. But he knows me well enough, and I assure him that I shall, at the earliest opportunity tomorrow, talk to my right hon. Friend and give him a full account of what has taken place, and I hope that he will be able to review the matter.
I am trying to adhere to my right hon. Friend's undertaking to M. Chamant that, for the time being, no further information should be given on these matters. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that whatever has happened I certainly do not know the details, and until I do I should at least honour my right hon. Friend's undertaking.
I am conscious of having spoken for a very long time. I say in conclusion that since its inception Concorde has been a most challenging and exciting project. I can assure both my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Adley) and the House as a whole that 650 we in the Government intend to give every possible backing and support to the manufacturers in this important task, because we are convinced that the supersonic market represents a new dimension in transportation, and that Concorde will fill it admirably.