HC Deb 17 May 1976 vol 911 cc931-3
3. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what progress be has recently made towards agreement with the responsible authorities of other countries upon future collaborative civil aerospace projects.

18. Mr. Pattie

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has had any further discussion with European Ministers regarding future new European collaborative aerospace projects.

The Minister of State, Department of Industry (Mr. Gerald Kaufman)

I shall be having talks on these matters with M. Cavaille, French Secretary of State for Transport, in Toulouse at the end of the month. Extensive discussions are in progress, both at industry and official levels both in Europe and with the United States companies, aimed at defining possible future aircraft projects and the options for collaboration on them.

Mr. Tebbit

Is not the Minister aware that I asked him about progress and not about a list of the endless words which are being muttered by him and his cohorts? Is it not a better measure of progress, since the blight of nationalisation, that the two major American contractors are now discussing partnership for the future with French companies rather than with British companies?

Mr. Kaufman

The hon. Gentleman always seeks to put the worst possible construction on every situation. He knows very well that this Government are anxious to enter into collaborative projects with our European partners. I have been involved in contacts with our European partners on that. As it happens, I shall also be meeting the President of Boeing this afternoon.

Mrs. Hayman

Would my hon. Friend comment on some of the reasons, on which Conservative Members could perhaps elaborate, why the progress of nationalisation has been so slow? A little nearer home, has his Department yet been able to make a response to Hawker Siddeley's proposals on the HS146 and future work?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friend has a later Question on this, which it would be wrong to anticipate. On the former part of her question, it sometimes appears to me that Conservative Members are interested in a successful British aerospace industry only provided that it is privately-owned but funded by the State.

Mr. Pattie

Is the Minister aware that while he is having these conversations, which have been going on for some months now, the future projects of the European industry have already been defined and that the aerospace industries of Europe and America are getting to the point of giving up hope that they can ever look to the British aerospace industry—or, more particularly. to the British Government—for any sense of priority and direction? When will he do something about that?

Mr. Kaufman

I am interested that the hon. Gentleman should talk about matters which have not been defined. One of the problems for me is that this Government inherited no such definitions from the Conservative Party. If only we had had some projects to take over from them, perhaps we could have got on with them.

Mr. Molloy

In this international co-operation and collaboration, is any way of developing quieter aircraft being discussed in order to alleviate many of the problems which afflict people in places like Ealing, where they suffer dramatically from aircraft noise?

Mr. Kaufman

I congratulate my hon. Friend on, as always, speaking up on behalf of his constituents. The search for quieter aircraft is one of the things on which we are constantly engaged.

Mr. Heseltine

I am sure that we understand and welcome the fact that the Minister is now having meaningful talks with our European allies. But why, when the Labour Party came to power, did it abandon the talks which we had already initiated?

Mr. Kaufman

Obviously I do not know what talks the hon. Gentleman initiated, since I am not able to see what he did when he was in office. Sometimes I am grateful for that.