HC Deb 14 May 1973 vol 856 cc1008-9
15. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will now announce Government funding for any new civil aircraft project.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I am not in a position to make any comments.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I remind my hon. Friend that the British aircraft industry is earning its bread and butter —and doing it very well—from projects designed more than 10 years ago, and that there is a great need for replacements for the Viscount and Trident? As regards the Trident replacement, the BAC consortium Euro-plane is a quiet aircraft which would meet all the criteria of Europeanness and environmental desirability which would commend it to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Heseltine

All proposals are looked at carefully, and I shall take into account the aspects mentioned by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Allason

Does my hon. Friend recall the claims of Hawker Siddeley to produce a quiet aircraft at a fairly small cost to the Government—something that is very necessary at this time?

Mr. Heseltine

As my hon. Friend knows, I am looking at a proposal from Hawker Siddeley.

Mr. Bishop

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that his comment that he is not able to make another statement is outrageous in view of the fact that the British aircraft industry has been waiting for some time for an indication of the Government's thinking, let alone of their policy, and that the absence of any other civil project of any size apart from Concorde is causing grave disquiet to SBAC, the Air League and many national organisations?

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the initiative must come from the Government for industry in this country and in the EEC, and will he say whether he hopes to continue the marriage with the EEC on this matter or whether he is looking for a partner such as the United States? If the hon. Gentleman is falling short of cash to give to any of these projects, will he consider the £1,000 million which will be spent on Maplin in the next 10 years as providing some way of helping to fund projects which might be pursued in the industry itself, bearing in mind that 200,000 workers depend on the Minister's policy today for their work during the next 10 years?

Mr. Heseltine

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that in order to fund aircraft I should take away the ability of the aircraft to land. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would hesitate to accuse me of injecting a note of uncertaintly into the British aerospace industry in the light of the remarkable statement made last week by his right hon. Friend.