HC Deb 08 November 1976 vol 919 cc14-6
9. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he has yet decided which British civil aerospace projects merit launching aid.

Mr. Kaufman

With the Government's encouragement, the Organising Committee for British Aerospace and the industry are considering all the available options in consultation with possible collaborative partners. At present, the discussions are not sufficiently advanced and the market situation is not sufficiently clear for them to be able to put any proposals to the Government.

Mr. Tebbit

That is the sort of answer we have had for two and a half years. Is the Minister aware that cheapjack appeals to the patriotism of his Tribunite friends will do damn-all good if he cannot make up his mind about any single major industrial development, which he has the power to do right now under the Civil Aviation Act?

Mr. Kaufman

My hon. Friends, whether members of the Tribune Group or not, have far more patriotism than the hon. Gentleman will ever have if he goes on asking that ignorant, malicious and snide sort of question. The fact is that under private enterprise we have had not one proposal for a new aircraft project. The only new aircraft project launched in the past few years has been from the nationalised Short Bros and Harland. Only when we get this industry into public ownership shall we have the new projects, and if we do not get it into public ownership there will be no new civil projects.

Mr. Whitehead

Does my hon. Friend agree that this is an area in which public expenditure is necessary and desirable, especially as the aerospace industry is finding it difficult to cope with the longstanding consequences of the recession? Will he agree that in aerospace engines as well as in airframes we need to move forward quickly, especially with projects such as the JT10B?

Mr. Kaufman

The Opposition wish to leave the future of the civil aviation industry to the free play of market forces. I do not know whether that implies Government money too, but I can only say that if the Tories had left Rolls-Royce to the free play of market forces there would be no future for Rolls-Royce, and my hon. Friend's constituents who are looking forward to that engine would now be waiting to find other opportunities.

Mr. Henderson

Will the Minister give an assurance that not a penny more of taxpayers' money will be wasted on a stupid project such as Concorde or Concorde II?

Mr. Kaufman

Without accepting that this superb technological achievement is a stupid project, I remind the hon. Gentleman that I have made perfectly clear both to our French partners and to the workers of the British Aircraft Corporation that no more Concordes will be built unless firm orders can be obtained without loss to the taxpayer. M. Cavaillé and I agreed at our metting last week that we would not go ahead with the £500 million that BAC has asked us to spend—without a penny of its own money, of course—on a stretched Concorde.

Mr. Warren

To return to civil aviation projects, can the Minister explain why, with the full authority of the 1949 Act, he has not taken the initiative, which he has power to do under that Act, to help civil aviation? Why must it wait for nationalisation?

Mr. Kaufman

For two and a half years now, the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have been telling us not to bail out lame ducks and not to spend public money on them. We have made our position clear. On 29th June my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the House that there would be an assured future for Scottish Aviation within British Aerospace, and that statement is available for the hon. Gentleman to see. I wish that I could say that if the Bill fell the same assured future would exist. It would not.