HC Deb 21 October 1971 vol 823 cc897-9
Q6. Mr. Onslow

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the coordination between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence on the long-term development of the British aerospace industry.

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. There is a close working relationship between the two Departments.

Mr. Onslow

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that in the award of contracts for aircraft and avionics for the R.A.F. everything possible is being done to see that preference is given to British firms with a record of established success in export sales, so bringing the R.A.F. operational requirements more into line with British equipment with a real potential for overseas sales?

The Prime Minister

The export potential is one of the factors taken into account when selecting new equipment for the Royal Air Force, but the technical requirements of the R.A.F., the time and so on, must also be taken into account. The Defence Sales Organisation ensures that the requirements of the export markets are considered at all times with every new project.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is it not a matter of great concern that so much of the electronic equipment for the new collaborative projects in Europe is being chosen from United States firms which have set up facilities in Germany and that British firms are being squeezed out? Should not the Prime Minister pay some attention to this matter and ensure that the British electronics industry, which has been foremost in developing avionics equipment, has a chance to get into this market?

The Prime Minister

This is a matter of deep concern to Her Majesty's Government. I do not accept the generalisation at the beginning of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks, but there are specific instances in co-operative projects where avionics equipment has been selected from other countries than Britain and we are most anxious that it should come from this country.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Hastings—[Laughter.]

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Warren.

Mr. Warren

May I point out that Warren Hastings was acquitted after standing trial? In view of the announcement in the House this afternoon of the purchase of American radar for the multi-role combat aircraft, will my right hon. Friend put the brakes on the Ministry of Defence's attempts to offset the Department of Trade and Industry's export drive by seeking to reverse the trend which has been carried over from the previous Government which committed us to expenditure on electronics in the United States of £100 million a year for the next five years?

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend knows, on this aspect of avionics for this aircraft there has been deep consideration with the other Governments associated with us. There has been correspondence with my hon. Friend and others about this matter, and the British Government did its utmost to ensure that the British avionics industry was given every opportunity to meet the requirements of this specification.