HC Deb 02 November 1989 vol 159 cc453-4
2. Mr. Cran

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether the transaction for the acquisition of Short Brothers plc by Bombardier of Canada has been completed; and if he will make a statement.

12. Mr. Colvin

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to meet the chairman of Bombardier; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met M. Laurent Beaudoin, the chairman of Bombardier, on 4 October 1989 when he visited Short's to mark the completion of the sale of Short's to Bombardier. There are no plans for a further meeting with the chairman in the near future.

Mr. Cran

My hon. Friend will be aware that before privatisation of Short's the Government placed high priority on the company's long-term future. What steps are being taken to ensure that priority is upheld? To what extent is Bombardier investing in Short's? If that information is regarded as commercially sensitive, why is that so?

Mr. Needham

I do not think that it is regarded as particularly sensitive. The total sum that the Government put into the Short's-Bombardier takeover was £750 million, and Bombardier put forward an additional £30 million. Bombardier, together with Short's, now represents perhaps the best hope for the aerospace industry in Northern Ireland and in Europe in the 1990s. Bombardier has brought a considerable amount of work to Short's with its new regional jet and will continue to bring more work to Northern Ireland. We have obtained guarantees from Bombardier that it will stay in Northern Ireland and that work will continue there. This marriage must be the possible news for Short's and it must give immense confidence to the people of Belfast to see Short's on such a sound and potentially prosperous footing.

Mr. Colvin

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that Short Brothers has been undercapitalised historically and that the welcome merger with Bombardier will provide its highly skilled work force with the tools to get on with the job of making the world's finest aerospace products? Does he accept that Bombardier's interest in Northern Ireland demonstrates the enormous advantages that both the Province and his Department can provide for inward investors to the United Kingdom who seek a springboard in Europe post-1992?

Mr. Needham

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. An enormous debt has been hanging over Short's and has led to enormous interest problems for a long time. The fact that the Government were prepared to invest such a vast sum illustrates their confidence in the future of Bombardier-Short's. I recently visited the company and saw its work, which is at the forefront of technology. The activities not only of Short's, but of Harland and Wolff and STC in Belfast should give real encouragement for the future. Not every hon. Member realises how fast Belfast is changing for the better.

Mr. A. Cecil Walker

What price was obtained by the Industrial Development Board for the Lear Fan factory and what was the price for which it was subsequently sold to Short's-Bombardier? Will the Minister provide grant aid for the new purchase price?

Mr. Needham

The IDB sold the Lear Fan factory to Wilson's for £650,000. The sum paid by Bombardier-Short's to SRC Composites was £1.1 million and there was no grant aid from the IDB as part of the price.

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