HC Deb 27 March 1985 vol 76 cc459-60
1. Mr. Clifford Forsythe

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the 10 largest manufacturers of aerospace equipment in the United Kingdom.

The Minister for Information Technology (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

The largest manufacturers of aerospace equipment in the United Kingdom include: British Aerospace, the Dowty group, Ferranti, GEC, Lucas Aerospace, Rolls-Royce, Shorts, Smith Industries, Thorn EMI and Westland.

Mr. Forsythe

Will the Minister continue to assist Shorts in exploiting its well-known expertise in the aerospace industry?

Mr. Pattie


Mr. Hayward

Is my hon. Friend aware that Rolls-Royce is now producing the 535 E4 engine for the Boeing 757 which is the only engine to power a large jet which can land at airports which operate a curfew through the night, that it is proof of British excellence, and that airports, such as Heathrow, need not fear its increased use for day and night-time flights?

Mr. Pattie

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point. He will be aware that the Government have given considerable support to Rolls-Royce in recent years. Most recently they have given £70 million of launch aid for the RB 211 535 and £60 million for the V2500 which was announced some months ago by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Ashdown

The Minister will no doubt accept that Westland Aircraft is a vital component of the British Aerospace industry. Does he agree that it is important that that company should be able to go into the European collaborative projects of the early 1990s in as strong a position as possible and that therefore some of the delays that we are now experiencing over the AST 404 decision are unhelpful to the company?

Mr. Pattie

As the hon. Gentleman would have heard if he had been present for defence questions yesterday, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement gave reasons for the possible delays in the AST 404. That is a matter for the Ministry of Defence. I note the hon. Gentleman's other point.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Does the Minister accept as one of his most important tasks the need to give positive direct and indirect help to preserve jobs in advanced technology in aviation and at the same time to preserve that technology? Will he give full support at all times to civil and defence projects?

Mr. Pattie

Part of my brief in my right hon. Friend's Department is to take responsibility for advanced technology. Much of the activity of the aerospace industry is in that area. As we have said in the House many times in the past, we see no advantage to the United Kingdom in losing the vital capability to design as well as to manufacture advanced technology products.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Does my hon. Friend agree that delays in reaching a decision on the European fighter aircraft could seriously prejudice British Aerospace's design and manufacturing capability? Will he do all that he can to ensure that a quick decision is reached on the matter, or give us an assurance that a national programme will be put in hand instead?

Mr. Pattie

As I think my hon. Friend is aware, the Department of Trade and Industry is working closely with the Ministry of Defence on this development. I would not agree that there have been significant delays. I understand from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence that the date of the next ministerial meeting to consider the matter has slipped by about six weeks from the date originally envisaged. The Government take the point that no unreasonable delay must be allowed.

Mr. Geoffrey Robinson

The Minister cannot shrug off his responsibilities as a representative of the sponsoring Ministry for Westland. Notwithstanding whatever was said yesterday, will the Minister undertake to use his best offices to ensure that perhaps even a small production order for the W30 helicopter is secured from the Ministry of Defence? The rumours in The Mail on Sunday and other newspapers are having a damaging effect on the export prospects of that company's products.

Mr. Pattie

There is no question of shrugging off responsibilities. I have already told the House that we are working closely with the Ministry of Defence on this and other matters. We are fully aware of the company's loading and future aspirations. We shall continue to work with the Ministry of Defence.