HC Deb 24 March 1971 vol 814 cc523-6
7. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply what progress he has made in the negotiations with Lockheed of the United States of America to continue the development and production by Rolls-Royce (1971) of the RB211; and if he will make a statement.

16. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply if he will make a further statement on the negotiations for the supply of the Rolls-Royce RB211 engine for the Lockheed Tristar.

23. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply if he will make a further statement on the progress of negotiations regarding the RB211.

31. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply what progress has been made by Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited in its efforts to renegotiate the RB211 contract with Lockheed: and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Corfield

Lockheed has rejected the proposals put to it in London earlier this month, which I reported to the House on 8th March, but negotiations are continuing urgently following the visit to Lockheed last week of senior representatives of Her Majesty's Government and Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General are leaving today to join in the negotiations.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

As most supplementary questions on this subject have been anticipated on previous Questions, I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress which is being made. I assure him that most of the House and the country wish the negotiators out there the greatest success. I congratulate him and the Government on sending such a high-level delegation out there at the right time to continue and. I hope, conclude the negotiations with Lockheed. I also congratulate the Government if it is true that they have advanced the offer from £60 million to £90 million.

Mr. Corfield

I am sure that my hon. Friend and the House will accept that it would not be right to discuss the terms of any negotiations going on at present, but I accept the earlier part of his comments.

Mr. Cronin

It is difficult for the right hon. Gentleman to say much at this delicate stage of these negotiations, but would he confirm that the three main points of the negotiations are the guarantee of spares by Her Majesty's Government, the guarantee of British investment and the establishment of satisfactory production costs with Lockheed? Will he undertake to give a statement on the negotiations at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Corfield

The answer to both parts of the supplementary question is, "Yes".

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Since this engine is vital and the symbol of our whole technological development in the air, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to double and redouble his efforts not to let it go?

Mr. Corfield

We are making every effort to obtain an acceptable and sensible contract, but I do not fully accept the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the large sums of money required to develop advanced aircraft and the high degree of risk, has my right hon. Friend made any representations to the Government of the United States that they and Her Majesty's Government can help by guarantee or direct subsidy to keep this project in existence in order to keep the design teams together and prevent heavy unemployment in the aircraft companies and the repercussions throughout industry?

Mr. Corfield

I must ask my hon. Friend not to speculate on the negotiations. Clearly, there are difficulties in asking the United States Government to subsidise a rival to the General Electric and Pratt and Whitney engines.

Mr. William Rodgers

There are problems of speculation about the negotiations, and we do not want the right hon. Gentleman to speculate. We welcome the journey to Washington. Can he tell the House first what the next stage of the negotiations will be so that we shall not learn the terms from the newspapers, as we did last time?

Mr. Corfield

It is always my endeavour to inform the House first, but the hon. Gentleman appreciates that there are occasions when other people make statements to the Press and when it is necessary for any statement by the Government to coincide with them. But of course it is my intention to tell the House first.

Mr. Warren

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the excellent progress made in the design and production sectors of Rolls-Royce over the last few weeks and, therefore, through the negotiators, invite the airlines, which are the ultimate customers, to come and see this work at Derby?

Mr. Corfield

The airlines have been involved to some extent with the negotiations with our own team but I will bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

13. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply what is his latest technical assessment of the RB211 engine.

Mr. Corfield

I have nothing to add to my reply of 3rd March to the hon. Member.—[Vol. 812, c. 1684–5.]

Mr. Dalyell

What technical assessment can the Receiver make? Can the hon. Gentleman explain the answer which the Under-Secretary gave on Monday to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) when he said that in these matters the Government had no control over the Receiver?

Mr. Corfield

That is perfectly true. The Government do not have control over the Receiver in this matter.

Mr. Dalyell

Then how can they negotiate?

Mr. Corfield

Of course we can negotiate.

Mr. Dalyell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We wanted the Under-Secretary to answer that Question, not the Minister.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me.