HC Deb 21 April 1975 vol 890 cc956-8
4. Mr. Warren

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he next expects to meet his European counterparts to discuss the future of the aerospace industry in the EEC.

The Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

I have no plans for such discussions at present.

Mr. Warren

Will the Minister tell us his view on the question whether or not he ought to acquaint his counterparts with his proposals on nationalisation? Are these people not to be told? Is it not really necessary that he should hear from them that they believe that it should be left to Parliament in this country and not to the EEC to make decisions about the organisation of the industry?

Mr. Benn

I think it would be a greater courtesy to tell the House of Commons our proposals through the Bill before we consult European Ministers, but I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's view that we should tell European Ministers before we tell Parliament.

Dr. Bray

In view of the importance of the Concorde project for the EEC aircraft industry, will my right hon. Friend consider going to New York to give evidence at the current inquiry, which, evidently, is assuming a highly political character?

Mr. Benn

In a private capacity, and with another hon. Member, I did go the last time there was an attempt to stop the Concorde from landing there. But I think that in this particular case the matter had better be handled in the way in which it is being handled, so long as it is clearly understood by the American Government that the British and French Governments have an absolutely basic national interest to see that our investment in this aircraft is not frustrated by arguments which do not stand up to serious examination.

Having said that, I hope that my words will be reflected, without my presence being necessary.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

We all know the right hon. Gentleman's views about Europe, but surely he does not really believe that the British aerospace industry can live outside some sort of link with the European aerospace industry. May we have his assurance that his plans for nationalising our aircraft industry at least owe something to the creation of a stronger European aerospace industry?

Mr. Benn

This is not a question on which one would want to enter into a broader discussion about the Common Market. Concorde was begun many years before any question of British entry was considered. The Society of British Aircraft Constructors has told me that the aircraft industry has 1,000 collaborative projects of one kind or another, one of the most important being the RB211 in an American aircraft. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take such a narrow view of the British or world industry as to suppose that "wogs" begin at the frontiers of the Common Market. We must make it world wide.