HC Deb 05 July 1971 vol 820 cc921-2
40. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to seek to give evidence before the Banking Committee of the United States House of Representatives currently investigating the proposed guarantee to Lockheed Aviation.

Mr. Corfield

The Chairman of the Banking and Currency Committee of the United States House of Representatives has asked the British Government to give evidence on this subject. He has been told in reply that we do not propose to put forward witnesses but are prepared to make a further written statement, if that would be helpful to the Committee.

Mr. Whitehead

I appreciate that we should be under no illusions as to the motives of those who may wish the Government to testify before this Committee, but is the Minister aware that the situation has changed significantly since similar requests came from the Senate Committee, first because there is now no prospect of the necessary legislation going through the two Houses of Congress before 8th August and, second, because the British Government's guarantee of further financial support for this engine and for this great project will itself run out in four weeks' time? Is the Minister therefore aware that, if he wishes to continue to have bipartisan support in the House for his efforts to rescue this engine, there must be an unequivocal statement that further support for the RB211 is forthcoming?

Mr. Corfield

The hon. Gentleman does not help his constituents or anybody else by pressing for a statement of that sort at present.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is there any precedent for the British Government giving any evidence before a Committee of either House of the American Congress?

Mr. Corfield

I believe that there are precedents where they have given evidence on purely technical matters but not on matters affecting policy.

Mr. Sheldon

Is the Minister aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) was inadequate? The House has a right to ask him what he intends to do in the event of Congress not agreeing to go ahead with the loans to Lockheed. What is the Government's intention? Do they intend to carry on producing the engine, awaiting the final outcome in the United States?

Mr. Corfield

My right hon. Friend made it perfectly clear the other day that, in the event of no decision being reached on 8th August, we, together with the other parties involved—that is, the two companies and the United States Government—would get together and decide what to do collectively. That is the only sensible way of behaving.