HC Deb 14 July 1975 vol 895 cc1046-8
16. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he expects to be able to announce the capital expenditure programme of the proposed nationalised aerospace construction industry.

Mr. Varley

It will be for the new corporation to evolve an investment strategy.

Mr. Tebbit

As the vesting day for this industry, assuming that the measure is continued with, will not occur until the middle of next year at the earliest, is it not clear that in the meantime grave difficulties will arise, especially as compensation was fixed in terms of the value of money of two and a half years previously? Is there not a need for an agreement between the companies and the Government, not least on the manner in which the companies will be compensated for new investment from which they will not otherwise benefit if the measure is passed?

Mr. Varley

There is no doubt that this measure will go through. I regret that it cannot go through this Session. The hon. Gentleman is on to a serious point. There is uncertainty within the industry. However, my Department will maintain contact with the companies concerned to see how this uncertainty can be minimised.

Mr. Adley

Does the Minister accept that neither narrow nationalism nor dogmatic nationalisation is the answer to the problems of the future of the aerospace industry? Does he agree that the country needs a healthy industry in co-operation with our European aerospace partners? Will he please give himself the task of opening discussions with other member countries of the EEC which have healthy aerospace industries to see whether we can arrive at intergovernmental guidelines for the future of the British aerospace industry?

Mr. Varley

There is a good deal of co-operation and collaboration between British industry and industries abroad. It will be our intention, and the intention of the new corporation when it is set up, to develop that co-operation.

Mr. Dalyell

When can the companies expect contacts from the Department?

Mr. Varley

I am already in contact with the companies through my officials. This is a continuing dialogue.

Mr. Warren

Is the Minister aware that he cannot afford to wait to get in touch with the other European companies to which British companies have already pledged their work force and their financial investment for future generations of aeroplanes? He must act now, long before vesting date.

Mr. Varley

If the Opposition are prepared to facilitate the passage of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill through the House of Commons as quickly as possible, some of these uncertainties can be reduced. The hon. Gentleman exaggerates the difficulties. The Bill will be a top priority Bill. I expect that it will have its Second Reading perhaps in November of this year. The organising committee can get to work immediately after that. The investment strategy and the degree of co-operation which we all require—and which has been called for from both sides of the House—can then take place.