HC Deb 17 May 1989 vol 153 cc299-300
1. Mr. Stern

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will place in the Library a report on the extent to which British civil aerospace projects are assisted out of defence budgets, and the equivalent figures for the United States of America.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins)

Precise figures are not available but, given the vastly greater size of the United States defence budget, the civil aerospace industry in the United States will have benefited over the years to a much greater extent that has been the case in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Stern

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, but is it not deplorable that the United States Administration should criticise European aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus for having an element of subsidy when in the United States there is a vastly greater subsidy through the defence budget for which figures are not even published? Does my hon. Friend agree that the announced failure of the Boeing 747–400 to achieve a certificate of airworthiness may be connected with the same problem in that these days slightly higher standards of safety are often demanded for civil aircraft than for what are basically military aircraft?

Mr. Atkins

As ever, my hon. Friend represents his constituents in British Aerospace, which makes part of the Airbus as well as many military components. His points are entirely fair. I caution him a little about his comments on the Boeing 747–400, because I remind the House that there is a substantial input of British manufacturers' equipment, for example, from Rolls-Royce. None the less, the point is well taken that Airbus will play an important part in the future of European aerospace in competition with the United States.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Does my hon. Friend agree that the success of Airbus is even more remarkable considering the fact that it was not borne on the back of a military project? Does my hon. Friend not agree that the fact that orders have been received this year alone worth £2,000 million to British Aerospace is a tribute not only to the European dimension but to the skill and technology available in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Atkins

My hon. Friend, like me, has flown in the A320. He will perhaps appreciate it better than me because he has a pilot's licence whereas I do not and am, therefore, guided by experts in this sector. My hon. Friend's points about the success of the Airbus are extremely good. It is one of the greatest success stories of European aerospace in which, of course, British Aerospace plays a large part, and all are to be congratulated on the achievements, especially when in competition with the American aerospace industry.