HC Deb 25 February 1987 vol 111 cc266-8
Mr. Allen Adams

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received about Government support for the Airbus project.

Mr. Channon

My Department has received representations about the provision of Government support for the Airbus A330/A340 project from a number of hon. Members, from trades union representatives and from others with an interest in these projects, including Airbus Industrie and British Aerospace.

Mr. Adams

Following the successful launch last week of the A320, will the Secretary of State assure the House of the Government's continuing financial support for the A330 and the A340? Will he also assure the House that the Government will continue to resist American pressure—pressure that seems to be absolutely determined to destroy, once and for all, the British aircraft industry?

Mr. Channon

Yes, on the latter point I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Information Technology met American trade officials on 2 February and made that absolutely clear. As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I think the House knows that the Government are considering an application at this time, and I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's views in mind.

Mr. Sackville

Does my right hon. Friend agree that among the many reasons why the A330 and the A340 should be supported is the fact that they will end the Boeing monopoly on the long-haul airliner market, a monopoly that Boeing abused, to the detriment of the aerospace industry in Britain and in Europe?

Mr. Channon

I shall certainly bear that point of view in mind, too.

Mr. Pike

In dealing with the application this time, will the Secretary of State not be quite so slow as the Government were about the Airbus 320, which is already proving to be such a major success? The A330 and the A340 are vital to the aerospace industries in this country. The whole country is waiting for a favourable decision—for the Government to say yes and to allow British Aerospace and all the other companies to go ahead.

Mr. Channon

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall reach a decision within a reasonable time scale. This is a very big decision. It involves a great deal of money. The taxpayers' interests are involved. It is very important that it should be considered very carefully, but there will be no undue delay.

Mr. Warren

Having visited Airbus in Toulouse yesterday, may I tell my right hon. Friend that a decision by Her Majesty's Government is long overdue and that the whole project is very vulnerable, unless the British Government go ahead? If they do not, the Germans and the French will not pursue either of those projects. Secondly, will my right hon. Friend bring into his consideration the fact that the British equipment industry is not at the moment included in the proposals and that it looks forward to some initiative from Her Majesty's Government to support it?

Mr. Channon

I am sorry to have to disagree with my hon. Friend, but the decision is not overdue. We are acting at the moment in parallel with the decision-making timetables of the French and German Governments and with the collaboration of Airbus Industrie and its partners towards fulfilling the desired conditions for the launch. The A340 specification was changed as recently as December, so I do not think that there has been any undue delay.

Mr. Terry Davis

Given that the uncertainty is causing some damage to the prospects, and given also that the Government are bound to support Airbus and British Aerospace, why will the Secretary of State not stop dithering and announce a decision?

Mr. Channon

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. It is causing no damaging uncertainty at all. There is no uncertainty; there is no damage. I am extremely surprised that the House should not wish me to consider carefully an application for the spending of several hundred million pounds of taxpayers' money. It seems to me to be only right that the matter should be very carefully considered. That is what we shall do. We shall announce the Government's decision within a reasonable time.