HC Deb 31 January 1977 vol 925 cc16-8
10. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what estimate he has made of the total cost to public funds of the British Aerospace Organising Committee during the financial year 1976–77.

Mr. Kaufman


Mr. Tebbit

I thank the Minister for telling us that figure, but does he think that it is in the public interest that they should not know the details of how the money is being spent? In particular, what would be the damage to the security of the State that might arise if the public were to know how much of the money paid in emoluments to the members of the Committee is taxable and how much is non-taxable? Why will he not tell us that?

Mr. Kaufman

Even by his own standards the hon. Gentleman is being pretty bizarre. The fact is that the salaries of those who have been appointed salaried members of the Organising Committee are taxable. They have other expenses, of which we have given details in the House, which they have been using to try to compensate for the delay with the Bill caused by the hon. Gentleman and his noble Friends.

Mrs. Hayman

Is my hon. Friend aware that most of us are much more concerned with the actual problems with which the Organising Committee has to deal than with the details of its finances? Has he yet received the views of the members of the Organising Committee on the current proposals for full-scale funding of the HS146? When are we to have a decision, which is much needed in my constituency and elsewhere?

Mr. Kaufman

I can tell my hon. Friend that if there is one project above all others the prospects of which have been damaged by what the House of Lords has done to the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill it is the HS146, the prospects of which have been placed in jeopardy by the delay. If Opposition Members doubt my words, perhaps they will accept the words of the air correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, Air Commodore E. M. Donaldson, who said: Whether Britain's industry is nationalised or not, its top air firms, BAC and Hawker Siddeley, plus their missile divisions, will need to be merged and reorganised. Nationalisation seems to be the best way of accomplishing this. Some 200,000 jobs are at stake over the next 15 years and there are signs that other international air firms are not prepared to wait for Britain to sort itself out.

Mr. Grylls

I ask the Minister to try to be a little more truthful or accurate in his replies. He knows, does he not, that the Bill would have been passed by now if it had not been for the stubbornness of the Secretary of State in not accepting the removal of the ship repairing clauses? That is the truth. As the Organising Committee of British Shipbuilders does not now exist because of all the resignations, what action does the Minister propose to take? Will he make a statement about the proposed State holding company for holding the existing State-owned companies? That could have been done a year ago and could have solved all the industry's problems without all this trouble.

Mr. Kaufman

My right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has a Question on the Order Paper about the shipbuilding industry Organising Committee, and that will be dealt with in due order. As for the question of our being able to have an Act, of course we could have had an emasculated Act if we had wished, but we had introduced a Bill fulfilling our pledges at the previous two General Elections to the effect that we would nationalise ship repairing. The Bill must include ship repairing if it is to be enacted.