HC Deb 25 June 1979 vol 969 cc8-9
6. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement about the future of British Aerospace.

Mr. Butler

The Government are still reviewing the position on British Aerospace. No decisions have yet been taken, but my right hon. Friend hopes to make a statement as soon as possible.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

In drawing up the proposal for British Aerospace, are the Government looking for a partial sale of equity in the corporation or are they seeking total denationalisation? Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the need for a measure of stability in aerospace, in view of the convulsions caused by the unnecessary nationalisation by the last Government?

Mr. Butler

My hon. Friend has drawn attention to a truth, which is that one must start from the position as one finds it. There are various options before Ministers. We shall make a statement on policy as soon as we are in a position to do so.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the hon. Gentleman comment on the report in two reputable newspapers that the award of the shipbuilding contract to the Finnish yard resulted from the intervention of British Aerospace, which wanted to do a package deal in the sale of aircraft?

Mr. Butler

As I have already indicated, the decision on the vessel to which the right hon. Gentleman refers was taken on the grounds that the subsidy which was needed was excessive in the circumstances. With regard to British Aerospace, I understand that there is a possibility of an offset arrangement.

Mr. Wilkinson

In considering the future of British Aerospace before making a statement, has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked for reports on the future of the HS 146 project?

Mr. Butler

When we carry out our review, all the projects with which the corporation is occupied inevitably come under review, particularly those which involve, or may involve, the use of public money. To that extent, I can tell my hon. Friend that the HS 146, along with other projects, forms part of that review.

Mr. Benn

Can the Minister give the House an assurance that before any decisions whatever are taken about the future of British Aerospace there will be discussions with the trade unions concerned, particularly in view of what his right hon. Friend said a few minutes ago about British Leyland? It is absolutely essential that the trade unions should be brought into discussions on the future of the industry in which so many of their members work.

Mr. Butler

The right hon. Gentleman will find that this Government will consult the employees concerned in any industry over which they have responsibility.

Mr. Adley

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have regular meetings with the shop stewards of British Aerospace at Christchurch, many of whom express views about the Government's proposals somewhat different from those put forward by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) as well as those put forward officially as the political view of the trade unions concerned? Will he therefore ensure that he does not speak only to the same old union hacks when he carries out this consultation with those who work in the industry?

Mr. Butler

I am sure that my hon. Friend will make certain that I get a cross-section of views from the employees.

Mr. John Silkin

As there would be no civil aircraft projects now without nationalisation, will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that none of the shares will go back to those who failed the industry in the past?

Mr. Butler

I can give no such assurance to the right hon. Gentleman.