§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Debate Resumed.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, to return to the question of technological progress in Europe, we have listened to two interesting opening speeches, one which dealt almost exclusively with the technical technological aspects of European co-operation, and the other, from the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, which dealt more with the political framework within which this technological progress might take place. I would say at once that I do not propose to take up all the points made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. His speech was characteristically detailed and comprehensive and he brought up a great many points about joint projects in technological matters. I should like to take up some of the more important points, and to leave the others to when I come to wind up the debate (if I may do so with the leave of the House), and to weave the whole thing together into some kind of pattern.
So far as the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, is concerned, I thought that he painted a rather gloomy picture of the future of the world in the dread grip of the scientists. It sounded to me rather like one of those Peter Simple columns in the Daily Telegraph. But he went on to disclaim any intention to be a Luddite in these matters, and so I acquit him of the worst suspicions that I entertained 486 when he started to speak. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, of course, about the doubtful future that we must have in Europe if we cannot do some of the things that he and the noble Earl outlined. I agree with him, too, that if we are to have a strong Europe, technologically, economically and politically, it is necessary to accept that we must all be prepared to give up some of our sovereignty. There is no doubt in my mind that if we are to move forward in the international field, whether in Europe or in broader international fields, we must at this stage in our political development be prepared to accept that the nation State is not the final element in the political structure, and we must be prepared to see our national sovereignty eroded in the cause of international co-operation.
When we consider the European scene, particularly, as we are invited by the noble Earl to do to-day, one of the most important factors we much consider, I think, is one that he has mentioned: that we live to-day in a world in which super-Power blocs are predominant. He mentioned the three that most people would identify as being those in which most of the great political decisions of the world are taken. Certainly such decisions are taken now in the United States and the Soviet Union, and I agree with his implication that quite soon they may be taken also in the People's Republic of China, which I believe will be a super-Power before many people are prepared to accept. In practically every field of activity, political, military, economic, technological, those super-Powers now predominate, and this seems to me to be the real case for the strengthening of Europe. It is not only a question of creating a single market; it is also a question of building a Europe that is united and integrated in all fields, especially perhaps the political one. Here I go a long way with a number of things that the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has said, although, as he will know, not all the way.
We regard the enlargement of the present Communities in Europe as being the best basis for this kind of integration, but as practically everyone who can read will know, there is a veto on the enlargement of those Communities. We are concerned, naturally, that while that pathway is blocked the whole of Europe should 487 not be paralysed, and we are determined that it should not be. We have therefore been looking for other ways of moving forward, not only in the political field but in military matters. and also in the field that we are specifically considering to-day, the field of technology. I am therefore grateful, as I am sure all your Lordships are, to the noble Earl for bringing this matter forward for us to look at, albeit briefly, to-day.
Perhaps I may, in a very few minutes, recapitulate the political story that has brought us to where we are to-day. After the French veto to which I referred, of December, 1967, a series of proposals were drawn up by the Ministers of the Benelux countries, and these were formally presented to the other members of the European Community and to the four applicant countries in January, 1968. One of the provisions of the proposals was that joint action should be undertaken in fields not covered by the Community Treaties—that is to say, by the Treaties of Rome and of Paris—and the number of people to participate in these joint activities would of course vary according to the project. One of the fields of projects specifically mentioned was that of technology.
The then Foreign Secretary announced our acceptance of these proposals, which would have allowed us to go forward in technological and other co-operation, at a meeting of the Western European Union in January, 1968. In February, 1968, the Italian Government played its part in this process by circulating a memorandum, of which we were given a copy; and although it was similar in a number of aspects to the Benelux proposals, it gave prominence to, and isolated, a number of these proposals. At the next meeting of the Western European Union, which took place in Rome in October, the Belgian Government made its contribution, when Monsieur Harmel took up one of the themes of the Benelux proposals. He put forward suggestions for co-operating in fields not covered by the Community, and specifically he proposed co-operation and consultation in the fields of foreign policy and defence. But he mentioned—and this was discussed at some length at the meeting which I attended in Rome—the very clear possibility that other areas, monetary policy and technology, might be added at a later date.
488 So, as a result of that and of a meeting which took place in the margin of NATO a little later, and at which the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary was present, it was agreed that a draft paper should be produced at W.E.U., in Luxembourg, in 1969. At that meeting six delegations of the Western European Union—that is to say, all the countries present except the French—agreed to consult on important matters of foreign policy before taking decisions in that field. The possibility of consulting on other matters, including technology, was left open for later discussion. So that is where we stand at the moment. We are going forward inside the Western European Union with an obligation to consult on matters of foreign policy, and the field is left open for consultation of a similar kind to take place in that forum on technological matters.
In the meantime, of course, as the noble Earl has mentioned, there are already two important projects going on inside the Common Market, to which I think we have every hope of being invited to accede, or at least to take part in. The first is what used to be called the Marechal Group—now, as we have been told, called the Aigrain Group, because Monsieur Aigrain has taken over its chairmanship from Monsieur Marechal. This was a Group which was set up in 1965 with terms of reference to:investigate the problems connected with working out a co-ordinated or common policy in the field of Scientific and Technical Re search, and to propose measures for putting such a policy into effect".This Working Group produced a report in September, 1967, and as a result the Council of the Common Market adopted a resolution, now sometimes known as the Luxembourg Resolution, which set out a programme of investigations into this field of technology.
The Marechal Group, or Aigrain Group as it now is, took those up until 1968, when the Dutch Government, as part of its programme of insisting that the applicant countries, including the United Kingdom, should be brought into these deliberations, held up the work of the Marechal Group—in fact, virtually brought it to a standstill. The Group has now resumed work and, as the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has said, there is a possibility that we may be invited to participate in it. As I think he will know, our position is that we should be prepared to 489 consider taking part in the work of this Group if we received an invitation from the Six as a whole to do so, but only on a basis of complete equality, and not with any kind of second-class membership.
The second project that I referred to is in the field of international patents. The Member States of the E.E.C., the Common Market, approved at their meeting in March a draft memorandum which was to be sent to certain non-Member States in Europe, including ourselves, inviting them to participate in negotiating a European Patent Convention. This may not sound anything very dramatic or spectacular, but I am sure noble Lords will realise that of course it is an extremely crucial matter to be solved if we are ever going to move forward to anything like a European company, certainly any European company of a highly advanced technological type. Our position on that remains that we naturally want to see any positive move made towards harmonising patents, and we are now looking forward to receiving an invitation from the Six to take part in negotiating a Convention on European Patent, which I think will be (although, as I say, it does not sound very dramatic) a fairly important step forward. But I must say again that we want to take part as a full and equal member. We are ready to take part in any preliminary discussions that the Common Market countries may propose to that end.
Whatever may become of these invitations and of the other activities I have outlined, it is essential (and here I agree entirely with the two noble Lords who have spoken already) that co-operation in Europe should be strengthened, especially in the industrial sphere. Both the noble Lords who spoke earlier mentioned the book by M. Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber, called The American Challenge, and as a result of that and of other publicity given to the American technological invasion of Europe it has been suggested that Europe is virtually being colonised by the big United States corporations. I think this is an over-simplified picture, and indeed there are fields in which the United States investment works to the advantage of Europe. I do not think one ought to be too black and white about this, but certainly I agree that there are disturbing implications, and the wide differences—which are growing differences—in some sectors of 490 technological capability between Europe and the United States are a matter of real concern.
It is not so much the fact that knowledge and expertise are lacking in Europe; it is not a lack of inventiveness. Indeed in many advanced technological fields I think we can claim that in this country, certainly, and in Europe as a whole, we are at least as inventive, and in some cases more so, as the Americans. What we really lack is the capacity to develop these inventions and to produce and market them quickly enough to meet the United States competition. That is the difference. I believe it is not, as it is often called, a technological gap that exists between us so much as a management gap, or the means of producing and marketing highly advanced technological equipment after the basic research has ended. The basic reason for this is that we lack a large enough market. The United States bases its advanced technological industries on a market of over 200 million. We cannot, because we are not yet integrated.
Noble Lords who have personal experience of this will know that technology-based industries have a high cost; they are labour intensive and capital intensive and all these costs are now so high. There is another factor which comes into this, which is the factor of built-in obsolescence—the speed at which advanced technological equipment becomes obsolete. All this means that if a European producer, whether he is British, French or German, is going to make investment in advanced technological equipment worth while, he must have a home market of something like the size of the American market. I do not want to take an arbitrary figure but it is probably somewhere about 200 million. If he has a market smaller than that the chances are that his operations will be unsuccessful. What we need—and this hardly needs saying after the remarks I have just made—is a home market as wide as the whole of Western Europe. It is just as simple as that, if we are going to make investment in technological projects worth while. It is self-evident that it is not until there is a widely integrated European market that we shall be able to compete on equal terms with American industry in the advanced sectors.
491 Those few remarks point basically to the need for European integration, both in the political field that was outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and in the economic field. But when we come on to the specifically technological field, the area to which the noble Earl devoted himself, he was good enough to admit that there is already a good deal of technological co-operation in Europe. There is co-operation within the framework of international organisations, like O.E.C.D., and of course quite apart from intergovernmental co-operation there is important collaboration between industrial and commercial firms, who talk to their opposite numbers without necessarily referring to or even informing their Governments. After all, in countries like ours and other democratic countries there is no reason why they should do so.
Then, of course, there are the numerous joint governmental projects, to which the noble Earl has already referred. As I have said, I hope he will forgive me if I do not take up each one of the points that he made because he covered practically the whole field of technological cooperation, but I should like to mention briefly one or two of the things he brought to the notice of your Lordships. I think there is very little to be said about Concorde at the moment. It is one of our major projects with France. It is perhaps paradoxical that most of our technological co-operation in Europe of a bilateral kind is with France, and the Concorde aircraft is one of our major projects. I think everyone here will know that it made its maiden flight on March 2 and now goes on to the next stage of its development. Also, as the noble Earl has said, we are co-operating with the French on the Martel air-to-surface guided missile, the Jaguar aircraft—and indeed something I think he did not mention, a series of three Anglo-French helicopters.
We are discussing with the Germans, the Dutch and the Italians the other joint project of which the noble Earl made a good deal in his speech, that is the M.R.C.A., or multi-role combat aircraft. This is scheduled to come into service in the second half of the 1970s. It is a project which is likely to involve the production of well over a thousand aircraft, and it is the largest single European col- 492 laborative project in prospect at the moment. A decision whether to proceed with the next stage of this project, which is known as the "project definition stage" should be taken within the next two months or so. Here perhaps I should say that I am afraid I cannot comment very constructively on the Press report that was brought to my notice by the noble Earl, in his speech, about some kind of package deal between the French and the Germans on this project. The article concerned, which appeared in the Daily Express, has now been brought in to me and I have had a chance to read it. All I can say is that we have no official information about this; no word has come to us from our German friends, certainly, and I suspect that the idea that the Royal Air Force might find itself equipped with French aircraft is, to say the least, premature.
The next project of particular interest to which I should like to refer is the CERN project—C.E.R.N. being the initial letters of the French title of the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. This was set up in 1954 and its aim was to provide for collaboration among European States in nuclear research. Therefore its object is purely scientific, but it is a successful example of European co-operation; and its technological work, which I am assured by my scientific friends is of a very high order, is carried out in its laboratory at Meyrin in Switzerland. As the noble Earl said, this organisation proposes to build a giant accelerator with a Hower of 300 GeV. This will be the largest accelerator in the world, and in 1968 the Government announced that they had considered carefully whether or not to participate in this project. Although they recognised the scientific value of it, they were particularly concerned at the effect which taking part in this project might have on the balance of resources between high energy physics, in which, of course, the giant accelerator is an element, and other scientific activities. There is a strong argument advanced by scientists that high energy physics already gets too much of the money allocated to scientific research. We were concerned about this, and also at this time we had to take into account the implications of the devaluation of sterling. We reluctantly came to the conclusion that in the light of other commitments we could not 493 justify expenditure on this very large project.
The question of the gas centrifuge was also raised. As many noble Lords will know, this is a project for collaborating in exploiting the gas centrifuge, which is a method of producing enriched uranium. This is an extremely important scientific development and the Ministers met in November of last year, and again recently, to discuss this project. An agreement on this project will of course have very considerable political significance. This is not necessarily confined to the three countries concerned.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? It was definitely stated in The Times this morning that agreement had been reached yesterday. Mr. Wedgwood Benn and Mr. Mulley were there and Dr. Stoltenberg and the Dutch, and agreement had been reached to set up three centrifuge plants, I think in Britain and Holland, but not I suppose in Germany.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I was just coming on to that. The noble Earl beat me to it, as he so often does. I was about to deal first with his question about the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but now that he has brought up the question of the communiqué of yesterday's meeting perhaps I may deal with that. It was indeed stated that we had reached broad agreement on the structure of what is called a tripartite collaborative venture, and among those decisions, as The Times reported, and I think the noble Earl quoted from that newspaper, it has been decided to set up two joint enrichment plants, one in the United Kingdom and one in the Netherlands. The headquarters of this venture—I may not be using the exact word for the installation—will be in the Federal Republic of Germany. Later the communiqué went on to say:Ministers recalled their agreement at The Hague that the collaborative arrangements would have to be consistent with the policies of the three Governments in relation to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and to their international obligations in this field. They agreed that it would be necessary to include in the proposed agreement on centrifuge collaboration appropriate mutual undertakings and provision for appropriate safeguards to be applied in relation thereto.I hope that what I have said will put the noble Earl's mind at rest on the 494 compatibility of this tripartite collaboration and our responsibilities under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
I would now briefly mention one or two other points—I must not keep your Lordships any longer at this stage. We have some plans afoot in Europe in the field of fast breeder reactors, which the noble Earl mentioned. There is, first of all, as he will know, a top level expert group. It is drawn from the member-nations of the organisation called ENEA, which is the European Nuclear Energy Agency, and this is considering prospects for various types of nuclear reactors known as the fast breeder reactor. On the two specific questions he asked me, the Europeanising—I am using his word although I would not necessarily use it myself—of Capenhurst and Dounreay, I think he will recall that we had discussions last year with several European countries about arrangements for assuring them of supplies of enriched uranium from Capenhurst for their civil reactors, and I think he will sea that these ideas are to a great extent, or might well be, now overtaken by the centrifuge collaboration project.
So far as the Dounreay project is concerned, whether we might turn that into a European venture or not, this subject was discussed last year again with the ENEA, the European Nuclear Energy Agency, and the discussions are still going on. So far as Dounreay is concerned, the development has reached a point where its technology is a commercial matter, and it is not a question of Europeanising it in an inter-governmental sense but really of licensing the project; and this we are discussing with a number of our European friends.
Perhaps I ought to deal briefly with the space question, although if any noble Lords wish to press me further on this subject I shall be delighted to go into it more fully when I, with leave, wild up the debate. But as the noble Earl was rather critical, albeit in a very graceful way, of our approach to European space projects, I think I ought to say this We have had our differences with our European partners and it would be foolish to try to conceal the fact. I think most of them exist because we firmly believe that space projects, like any other technological project, must be judged by purely economic criteria. I use the words "economic criteria" in a very broad, not 495 in any short-term and immediate, sense. It does not seem to us to make sense to try as it were to buy political integration and political goodwill by taking part in scientific ventures which we do not believe are economically and industrially viable.
To us, the ELDO programme, the launcher programme, which the noble Earl particularly mentioned, simply does not make sense. It does not make sense for us and it does not make sense for Europe, and on both counts I think we were right to take the action we took. As I say, if I am pressed I shall be delighted to go into details later. It is quite wide of the mark for the noble Earl to suggest that we withdrew for political reasons. That view has no validity at all. In the first place, to say that we withdrew is not strictly correct, but to say that we did so for political reasons is well wide of the mark.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I said that we partly withdrew from the ELDO "B" project, going on to 1971. I should like to make it clear that I was not expressing views of my own; I was reporting very positive views expressed to me by officials in Europe.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I take the noble Earl's point. I was making the point that I hope the noble Earl will not give validity to those views. They do not bear examination. What we did was not to withdraw but simply to decline, for good reasons which I am prepared to go into if pressed, to undertake additional expenditure. We did not withdraw from anything.
The noble Earl asked me a specific question about ELDO and ESRO and their merging, and he will know that we voted for a resolution of the European Space Conference which called for the setting up of an integrated European Space Organisation to carry out an agreed European space programme. A committee of officials has now been set up to work out a convention for this organisation by October of this year. This will be presented to the next European Space Conference, at which I expect the noble Earl will be present, early in 1970. We have nominated our member for this committee and he will attend the first meeting of the committee, which is due to take place on March 18—in fact next week.
496 I am coming to the end of these remarks which I have to offer at this stage of the debate. The noble Earl mentioned the criticisms of the Government from some of our friends on the Continent. I realise that he was only reporting faithfully what he had heard, but I should like to say this—and this is the point I want to make at this stage of the debate, because it might create a framework in which later remarks could be made and against which they might be weighed. We have very strict and searching criteria of value for money which have to be applied to any project for technological and scientific co-operation. We insist that any expenditure, whether it is expenditure of money or of resources or of skill, is allocated in such a way that we get the maximum benefit from it. As a result, some of our friends have accused us of being un-European; and of course the opposite is the case. I am quite sure noble Lords will agree that it is not, and it cannot be, in the interests of Europe, whether this is a widened Europe or the present Europe, to distort the allocation of scarce resources simply in order to ward off ill-informed criticisms of being anti-European.
Where there are opportunities for collaborative ventures we are always looking for them; and I think, as I have pointed out in the (I hope) short time that I have taken so far, we have taken part, and are taking part, in a number of collaborative ventures. If any others come to light, we shall study them closely. Provided that we find them satisfactory from all points of view, we shall take part in them, or at least shall consider taking part in them. But they must be satisfactory from all points of view. It is not enough that they should be European: they must, as the jargon has it, be cost-effective; they must be industrially and economically viable. But I think that to suggest that because of this we are in some way un-European is really to be, if I may say so, quite perverse. I am sure that the people who study and know about these matters in Europe will agree that we shall be of far more use to them in Europe if we take an intelligent view of this kind of project than if we simply rush into everything just because it happens to have on it a European label.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble 497 Lord once again, but how does he apply the cost-effective criteria ot, say, joint research into air pollution, which many people consider to he extremely important? We cannot apply cost-effectiveness to every project, I think. Would he think so?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, if you take cost-effectiveness in its widest sense, I think it is possible to apply to any project the criterion of what returns from this project we expect for the resources that we deploy and expend upon it. Of course, it is not always true that you are going to get back an immediate financial return. Your return might be one of some other value; and in the case mentioned by the noble Earl I think everybody would agree that if you get back a return that is of value to the human environment you probably have something that is worth the resources expended. But there must be a cost-effective factor and a cost-effective calculation made here. I only make the point that it is not enough to take part in a venture simply because it has a European label on it, and then to pat yourself on the back and say, "That shows what good Europeans we are" It may in fact show what bad Europeans we are.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Would he not agree that it is not only for each nation to make its estimate of cost-effectiveness? It is for the Group as a whole to say whether they think a project is cost-effective. What the noble Lord seems to suggest is that we should be sole judges of whether the great common European project is cost-effective or not. I had hoped that I had suggested certain means by which this could be discerned and discovered. The noble Lord has not referred to that point at all.
§ LORD CHALFONT
No, my Lords. I thought that, if the noble Lord would forgive me, I would not in the course of this debate follow hint down that particular road because it is a rather wide area. One could in fact conduct an entire debate on the subject of integration, international commissions, weighted voting, supra-nationality and so on. That is the whole point of the noble Lord, but it is not really the point of the Motion before the House to-day. Where I do agree with him is that European tech 498 nological co-operation can never be fully effective until there is greater integration, until the Community is enlarged. But surely no noble Lord would suggest that we in this country, however much we believe in a widened and unified Europe, should go into a project which we believe to be commercially and economically unviable simply because other people taking part in it believe it to be viable. This seems to me to be suggesting that we should take part in projects that might involve us in great commercial loss and be a waste of scarce resources, simply because other people believe them to be viable when we do not. I am sure that no noble Lord in this House would suggest that we should handle the nation's resources of skill and of capital in that way.
I have said all I want to say at this stage. I think there has been some steady progress in European technological co-operation and in joint projects. We shall continue to look for opportunities to take part in these projects so long as they seem to us to be cost-effective. I have. I know, not covered all the points that were brought out in the noble Earl's most interesting and comprehensive speech, but I shall listen with interest to the speeches that follow, and I shall hope at the end to cover all the points made, both in the two opening speeches and in those which are to follow.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ LORD JACKSON OF BURNLEY
My Lords, I too would associate myself with the expression of thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this important Motion. None of us can he in any doubt that it is of the greatest importance that we foster and contribute wherever possible to closer collaboration with Europe in the scientific and technological field, but I was pleased that the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont, made the point that we must be careful to interpret "technology" in much wider terms than research and development and as extending through design, production, management and marketing. In some of these aspects we may have a good deal to learn from Europe.
I hope that your Lordships will find it helpful if I try to break down into three areas the subject of technological collaboration. The first one was concentrated on particularly by the noble Earl; he referred to it as "advanced technology". 499 This concerned such subjects as space, aircraft, nuclear and advanced electronics problems. Within this area, of course, fall inter-Government activities such as he mentioned: ESRO, ELDO, CERN, Concorde and so on. I do not propose to make any further comments on that particular area, because I regard it as by no means the only area, and there are times when I think it is not necessarily the most important area, of desirable collaboration in Europe. Certainly, by itself, it will not constitute an adequate base for European collaboration.
The second area, on which I should like to say rather more, I will describe as "basic technology", which is not easy to describe in a few words but in mechanical engineering, for example, it would cover a wide range of techniques in materials production and processing: subjects like welding, tribology and metrology, and a whole diversity of basic technological knowledge and understanding which affords the base on which industries thrive, or fail to thrive, and lacking which no industry, in my opinion, can hope to participate effectively in the advanced technologies to which the noble Earl referred.
My impression is that in this area of basic technology there is quite extensive and rapidly growing collaboration. It takes the form of technical publications, of conferences and increasingly direct collaboration between our national establishments of research and development, our industrial research associations and our universities with corresponding institutions on the Continent. There is, I know, increasingly close association between industrial concerns in this area. I do not wish to suggest for a moment that there is not considerable scope for further extension of this collaboration, and I should like to pay tribute to what I believe the Ministry of Technology is doing in stimulating more basic work within this country and in fostering closer collaboration in this field.
I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, whether he is aware of the recent establishment of what is called the European Industrial Research Management Association, which comprises a grouping of over eighty of the largest European firms and which is said to be 500 self-financing and is intended to provide for discussion of basic technological issues in industrial firms. I distinguish greatly between discussing it in industrial terms and in terms of outside institutions. I should certainly like to know if he can tell us whether any British firms are involved in this association.
My third area I will call "industrial technology". This is the aggregation of the intimate techniques and skills employed by different sectors of industry within their own particular fields. As I see it, this is not an area of technology in which Government can play, or should play, a significant part, except in so far as it exercises an indirect influence on the vigour and initiative of industry through its procurement procedures and through fiscal and legal devices which remove impediments.
May I at this point say a further word about the so-called technological gap? Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, had advanced technology in mind as the focal point of this gap, and it must be admitted that in such fields as space, supersonic flight, micro-electronics and computers Europe is at a disadvantageous economic state of development relative to the United States. But there are a whole range of less exotic fields, fields of much greater present economic importance, covering such industrial activities as machine tools, plastic-making machines, printing equipment, plate glass manufacture, shipbuilding, aspects of motor vehicles and telecommunications equipment in which Europe is not the weaker community. Indeed, in the field of motor vehicles your Lordships may well be surprised when I say that such technological advances as fuel injection, disc brakes, hydrolastic suspension and monocoque construction all came from Europe. Unfortunately, one cannot say that they all came from this country, hut we are now talking of Europe, and Europe is not in many fields the weak partner that we sometimes think she is.
I would suggest, therefore, that there is no occasion this afternoon for us to think of Europe in any sense of inferiority because the Americans are capable of quite magnificent. almost incredible, technological achievements. What Europe has to do, and do quickly, is to harness 501 and develop in depth its immense intellectual potential and industrial resources, and this is why I think we should not put all our attention on the advanced technologies, because these will not contribute much in the short term to our economic strength.
Would your Lordships allow me now to change the emphasis? I should like to spend a few moments talking about the sociological, as distinct from the material, aspects of technological progress, and by way of introduction I would refer to a new field of intellectual endeavour known as "technological forecasting". This is an attempt to predict along the time scale the likely achievability of definable scientific and technological objectives. In the main, these possibilities have been outlined by scientists and technologists working within, and thinking outwards, from their own disciplines, and having read a good deal about this forecasting I am in no doubt that in the main the possibilities that have been forecast will prove to be achievable; or it may well be that in the pursuit of them other more desirable scientific and technological objectives will emerge and effort will be concentrated on them. The uncertainty, as I see it, lies much more in the time scale. It depends then on the scale of effort devoted to the project, and this involves what we are discussing this afternoon, international collaboration. But what I want to refer to more specifically is another uncertainly as to whether some of these objectives will prove to he worth achieving in humanitarian terms; and I feel the more prompted to refer to this because of the debate held on February 19 and initiated by the noble Lord. Lord Byers.
Some of the possibilities that have been forecast, indeed many of them, no doubt would bring unadulterated benefits to the community, but there will be others—and I suspect from now on more in the biological field than in the field of the physical sciences—which will give considerable cause for anxiety. After all, in the field of the physical sciences we have been taken to the limit of anxiety by the hydrogen bomb. What causes me concern in this matter is that, irrespective of benefits or anxieties, the pursuit of essential scientific and technological ends in the absence of a parallel and commensurate pursuit of the means of resolving 502 the sociological consequences will lead us into increasing difficulty. It can only exaggerate anxieties of the kind that were expressed in the previous debate, and reveal the increasing discrepancy between our ability to solve scientific and technological problems and to resolve the issues which they raise sociologically.
If I may now do so, I should like to put alongside the kind of possibilities that have been posed so far the need for us, and for Europe, to start, as it were. at the other end of the situation; to define the social problems either already existing, or likely to result from further technological progress, and start from there and assess what kind of contribution science and technology can play, and will need to play, in their resolution. I should like to mention what seems to me to be a quite outstanding field: that of urban development. There seems no doubt that not merely highly developed countries but under-developed countries are faced with the certainty of increasingly large urban conurbations, and this field of sociological development and of problems affords an immense field of contribution from science and technology.
May I mention a few of the problems that are involved? First, within the field of building technology, there are problems covering such questions as demountable buildings, the use of plastics in building construction, heat and sound insulation, the design and production of houses for developing countries, and the structure of the housing industry. Secondly, problems of computation, involving the application of computer science and technique to a wide range of urban problems in demography, such as forecasting housing needs, the types and balance of employment, transport facilities, power supplies and educational development. Then environmental studies in respect of safety, noise, atmospheric pollution, vibration, and the definition and maintenance of standards in these respects. Then transportation in all its known and, as it were, possible aspects, including electric cars, conveyor belts, pipe-lines, and so on. Then services for urban areas, demanding improvements in their arrangements for electricity, gas, water supplies and improved means of waste disposal and drainage. One could go on in this way.
503 I do not wish to suggest that sonic of these problems are not being studied—indeed, decisions are being taken and action is being taken—but I should like to ask (and I hope that the noble Lord Lord Chalfont, will have an answer for me) who in this country is responsible for co-ordinating the study of this range of problems. It seems to me that no single country in Europe could attack this comprehensive range with an adequate effort to resolve them with the urgency which is required. I see this, as I am sure does the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, as a crucial, fruitful and not expensive field of European collaboration.
Close scientific and technological collaboration, however it is discussed in detail, is only possible through close personal contacts. This is an aspect which has not been touched upon this afternoon. As I see it, Europe is at a disadvantage as compared with the United States and the U.S.S.R. This is due in part to language difficulties, but also to the fact that in the United States there is much greater provision for travelling fellowships which are attracting to the United States, and not to Europe, a substantial proportion of our mature graduate output for research and related work and, unfortunately, in many cases for permanent residence. I am aware that the Royal Society and the Science Research Council are trying very hard to increase the flow of people within Europe. The sums of money which are available for this task are far too small in the light of its importance, and I hope that when circumstances permit the Government will find it possible to increase the allocation of resources.
I should like to lead up to a further question to the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont. I myself would much prefer an increase in the flow of graduates for research within Europe between centres of excellence in particular fields rather than an attempt to create a grandiose new scientific-cum-technological institute such as was proposed a few years ago and which, I understand, is still under consideration. Unfortunately, I do not find it possible to get a clear statement of the present position, and I hope that the noble Lord will be able to help me on this matter. I am much more sceptical of such an institute in technological than 504 in scientific terms. As I implied earlier in my remarks, the place where technology comes to fruition is productive industry. If an outside institution, be it academic or otherwise, is to make an important contribution to technological progress, this will be dependent on the intimacy of its association with industry. This is difficult enough to achieve in this country between individual institutions and industry as to suggest to me that the time is by no means ripe to try to achieve success in this field in Europe. On the other hand, where it is possible to establish close co-operation between an industry and an educational institution in Europe, I hope that every possible means will be found to ensure a flow of Britishers to this co-operative effort.
In conclusion, I suggest that, if European technological collaboration extends no further than the hope that we may thereby achieve closer comparability with the United States in our 'standard of living, this will take us nowhere worth going to—unless, at the same time, by deliberate and sustained endeavour we seek to reduce the discrepancy between the standard of living which is already enjoyed and the standard of the developing countries. I realise that this would lead into another debate, but unless we seek deliberately to resolve this discrepancy, even to the point of our own hardship, I consider that the concentration of technological collaboration in our own interests will lead to tragedy. Therefore, I express the hope that some day we shall have another debate on that matter in relation to the subject which we are debating to-day.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I wish to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for initiating this debate. This is a fascinating subject to those of us who are connected with the technological developments in this country, but it is also a vital subject, for unless we solve these problems we shall not have the material resources to run a Welfare State. I do not propose to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, about the management gap. That is beyond my ken, and there are others in the House who are better qualified to deal with that matter. Nor do I propose to follow the noble 505 Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, in his fascinating consideration of the sociological aspect of whether any specific work is worth while. There must be justification for any work, and this is a matter of vital importance, not only to the future of our nation but to mankind as a whole.
I am apprehensive that, inadvertently, in the organisation of technology we may be pressing for too large a European superstructure. There are real dangers that we might create little empires of special branches of technology with one expert from Germany, another expert from France, and another expert from Italy, all in the same unit and all having to be appointed in order to keep a proper balance of nations and tongues. We should avoid imposing any superstructure of this nature. I am also apprehensive about the suggestion that a sort of M.I.T. or Caltech. might be set up in Europe. I think it has been suggested that Brussels might be a good place for such a body. I feel that this would be complicated and expensive, in view of what it might eventually produce. There would be a danger of its becoming a white elephant.
I am all for reinforcing our present technological units, most of which are technological departments of our universities. A little duplication among our university colleges is good and necessary for the dispersal of ideas and the sorting out of problems, but we should avoid the situation that too many colleges may cover too many specific technologies at one time. Already in this country we have too many universities and too little money to supply them. Therefore we must rationalise the specific projects which are being undertaken by the various universities, though the shortage of money will go some way to bring about such a rationalisation.
When one considers the linkage of colleges in this country which are studying the same specific technology, one should bear in mind that there should also be linkages with colleges in Europe doing the same specific work. That is the way in which the best co-operation, the cooperation of the scientists will be secured. The noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, has pointed out that there is already a great deal of collaboration going on, and the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, mentioned certain subjects 506 in this connection. I propose to mention briefly three of them, because each illustrates the fact that collaboration is going on, and is possibly going on entirely adequately.
The first subject is molecular biology where there is a very complete flow of scientists throughout the whole of Europe and, indeed, throughout the whole world. I doubt whether more co-ordination is needed than is going on at the present time. If the noble Lord, Lord Todd, had been in his place, I should have spoken with some hesitation, because this is his subject rather than mine. My second example is that of desalination, work on which is progressing, and in the van of the progress is Professor Silver, of Glasgow University. I should be very surprised indeed if there were not complete co-operation and interchange of ideas between everybody who is studying desalination in Europe and Professor Silver. I do not think that further co-ordination is necessary.
THE EARL OF BESSBCROUGH
My Lords, I was thinking of co-operation with a commercial aim in view, which would cover the exporting of plant. I am quite certain that the interchange of information between establishments in Europe is very good, but I was thinking entirely of the marketing aspect.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, I take the noble Earl's point, and I am sorry that I misunderstood him in that way. This comes back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and I am not competent to follow either of the noble Lords. I fear over-organisation of the basic technological sciences. I support the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, in his plea for closer personal contact and all that can be done to ensure it. There must be an interflow of brains between the nations; and, in order of importance, I support, first, what the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, has said about post-graduate work and travel fellowships. To my mind, these fellowships are very inadequate at the present time. Much more could be done about post-graduates from this country going to do postgraduate work in their technology in Italy, France, Germany or any other country that is studying the particular technology.
Secondly, I suggest that there should he interchange of professors and lecturers. By that I do not mean just coming over 507 for a week; I mean coming over for a year, two years or three years, but retaining their status at their original universities. More should be done along those lines. It will take a certain amount of money, since it is not merely a matter of organisation; but I am sure that if the money were available the universities and colleges would discover means of spending it profitably.
The third point that I wish to make about the interflow of brains—though this is at a level of lesser importance than the other two—is with regard to undergraduate exchange. It is perhaps partly for the universities themselves to put their house in order here, though this raises the question of Government grants to students. But a scheme under which an undergraduate would spend a complete year at a university on the Continent, which would count towards his course in this country, might be developed. After all, such a system is working very successfully in certain universities for the study of modern languages where one complete year out of four is spent abroad. Another point about undergraduate exchange, which I ask the Government seriously to consider, is that they should take off the tax where European students coming to study at universities in this country are paying full fees.
The trouble is that at present the inter-flow of ideas is not being encouraged. It may be difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to reply to this point right away, but this is a matter which is hindering somewhat the flow of students. My view is that it is extremely important to fertilise the grass roots of technological co-operation. If you are training the students, developing them at the postgraduate stage and developing the colleges where the specific technologies are growing, then the problems for decision will be put on to the plate of the right people. Co-operation should arise more from the development of technological work than from any attempt to superimpose it from above. Co-operation grows naturally; on no account should it be superimposed or it becomes a dead hand.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, like others of your Lordships I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for having given us the oppor 508 tunity to discuss this subject. But, as an admirer of his, I was rather sorry that he had to devote 22.3 per cent. of his speech to something that was more appropriate to the hustings. However, in the further development of his speech he gave us a very elegant and exact account of what is happening all around Europe. I do not want to go over the whole details of technological work, which have been ably dealt with by other noble Lords and will no doubt continue to be dealt with in this debate. I want to deal a little with the subject to which both the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, referred, which was the setting up of research laboratories.
Reference has been made to a European institute of technology. I think this derives from a remark made by the Prime Minister in his Guildhall speech of 1967, when he mentioned as one of the desirable objectives an institute of technology. However, after reading his remarks I think it is more than likely that he was not referring to an actual physical institute. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, suggested to me before the debate that that was so, and perhaps he will be able to confirm what I have said. The actual remarks made by the Prime Minister were:We are prepared—and here I pay tribute to the forward thinking of the C.B.I.—to join with other Governments, and with industry here and on the Continent, in sponsoring a multilateral European institute of technology to examine case by case, area by area, industry by industry the means to greater European technological co-operation.I do not think that suggests an actual research institute. At any rate, I hope it does not, because I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, and the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, said; that is, that these international laboratories for scientific research are really misconceived.
In my opinion, there are only three reasons why one should set up such a laboratory. One is that equipment of such costliness, of such magnitude, is involved that it is impossible or very difficult for a single country to provide it—at least, for a European country to provide it. This, of course, happened in connection with the development of nuclear facilities in Geneva, although I believe that some difficulty was caused there by the fact that the French had the purest iron available for a magnet, and they were not 509 prepared to let it out of France. I understand that the magnet is in France but its poles peep into Switzerland. Thereby, French pride and national prestige are conserved, and at the same time international work can be carried out. One can see that this rather limits the location of an appropriate laboratory.
A second reason why one might set up such a laboratory would be if one were concerned with a location that was available in only one country. An example of this would be astronomical observations which might be suitably placed, as indeed they have been, in Switzerland, high up in the Alps; and it would obviously be difficult to do this in the Netherlands or in Denmark. So it is clear that one has a second reason there. A third reason—and here it would be perhaps less of a laboratory than close co-operation—would he the observation of phenomena that were widespread, and where it was necessary to make the observations over a wide territory. A typical example of that is in oceanographic observations, where I can see every advantage in having very close collaboration.
If one does not have these, all one does is to put people together, creating all the problems of supervising them when they speak different languages, when they belong to different nations and when the control of the laboratory is almost certainly under a varied national control. I am afraid that I have little belief in the solution put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn; it seems to me that that is a will-o'-the-wisp so far as we are concerned in the immediate future. I think, my Lords, that it is most important that when we talk about European co-operation in research we should first of all not regard it as exclusive. We should regard it as a useful thing to be done because there may be people who are prepared to do it and there may be problems that can be solved. We do not want to think, because we have lost an Empire, that we are going to conquer the Continent.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ LORD TODD
My Lords, like other speakers I must express my gratitude to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this debate to-day. He in his speech, and other speakers later in their contributions, touched on a number 510 of the points which I myself wished to make. For that reason, I am going to be rather general, and I hope rather brief; but I should like to pick up a number of these points and pull them together. It has always seemed to me that when people talk about European technological co-operation they tend to do so in terms of inter-Governmental projects like ELDO or Concorde, and they usually seem to overlook the fact that, however grandiose or expensive a project of this type may be, it represent; only one aspect—and then not even the most important one—of technological co-operation. I am going to confine my remarks essentially to technological cooperation: I do not wish to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, into the byways of sociology, however important these may be.
Basically, the need for greater cooperation technologically in Europe rests on the danger that native European industry may lose its position and slip into decline in face of penetration by large, technologically advanced American industrial corporations. It is clear that this is a real danger; but it is equally clear, I think, that it is not due to any deficiency in European research and development skills. The so-called "technological gap", as I think the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has already stressed, is not the gap in research and development skills: it is essentially a gap in industrial capability. No doubt there are a number of factors concerned in this, and among them there may be deficiencies in management techniques in Europe. But to my mind by far the most important reason for this greater capability in America is the size of its domestic market—a domestic market which is big enough to encourage the growth of large enterprises able to risk large sums of money on new ventures with an economy of scale when they go to production and a reasonable prospect of an adequate return.
We are accustomed to hearing people talk about the astonishing difference in productivity per man in American industry as compared with British and European. Factors of three and four are bandied about. I sometimes wonder whether that gap would not look a great deal smaller if one took into account the differences in, say, scale of production 511 in such industries as the chemical industry, or in the length of production runs in industries like the aircraft industry. After all, the technological gap between Europe and the United States of America would simply vanish overnight if the 50 American States seceded from the Union and set themselves up as independent entities on the lines of the European States. I do not think that is likely to happen, so I think that Europe has got to do something itself. There is only one way it can do this, and that is by recognising that it should be one unit and one market. That means that, if we are going to make it effective, we shall have to go in for technological co-operation at the level of the industries themselves, and that co-operation will have to develop on the pattern of normal commercial operations involving the exchange of know-how, the concentration of production, perhaps in some fields the development of more supra-national companies, and so on.
The barriers to developments of this type are of course formidable, and are a consequence of the historical evolution of the fragmented Europe which we all know to-day. To remove these barriers, Governments will have to take seriously, and as matters of urgency, a great many problems, such as those concerning patent and company law, trade barriers and freedom of capital movement; and in particular they must seek to achieve a far higher degree of standardisation in every area throughout Europe than we have yet achieved. I think that only if this is done will it be even possible to get industrial co-operation to develop in a rational and fruitful way. True, Governments may well have to discard some of their cherished freedom of action on the way, but I think we must recognise that 19th century ideas of national sovereignty are incompatible with the realities of 20th century technology.
In the debate to-day there has been mention of a number of large technological projects operated on a bilateral or multilateral basis and involving, essentially, Government money. Of course there are some areas, like nuclear energy and aerospace, where in many cases the cost of new projects is so enormous that they are beyond the reach of industry, and even beyond the reach of individual 512 countries, so that if countries are going to participate at all they will have to combine. A good case can be made for a number of these. I was glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, that some serious consideration is being given to the question of fast nuclear reactors, because it seems absurd that we, being currently well in the lead in this area, should see quite independent efforts in the same area going on in, for example, France and Germany. I hope that the possibility of a joint effort in this field will be explored as a matter of sonic urgency.
In the aerospace field we have seen the ELDO project and the Concorde project, and we have heard to-day about the present status of projects such as the European air-bus and the proposed multi-role combat aircraft. Of such projects all I would say is that all of them need close study before we embark on them: we ought to have a pretty solid assurance that they are viable, or likely to be viable, commercially and technologically, because good technology and bad projects do not go well together. We ought also, before embarking on them, to form some idea of the likely cost.
It is true that it is not possible to make precise estimates of cost when dealing with wholly new technology, but I am sure that many noble Lords must, like myself, have noticed with dismay the inevitable escalation that occurs with every project of this type that comes forward. I can understand an estimate being perhaps 50 per cent. out, or even perhaps 100 per cent. Out; but the escalations we see make me feel that we ought to look more closely at our machinery for estimating costs. I hope that before we embark on anything like the multi-role combat aircraft we shall get some satisfaction that it is likely to work; and, secondly, that we shall be realistic when we first make a pronouncement about its probable cost. One thing that must be remembered is that once one embarks on an international project of this type it is extremely difficult to withdraw without incurring, perhaps rightly, a great deal of political odium.
My Lords, I should like, finally, to make one or two comments about such projects as the European air-bus, which at first sight looks a very reasonable thing, and the Concorde project. It seems to 513 me that the trouble is that co-operation in Europe in civil aviation is generally considered in terms of exchange of research and development information and in terms of joint projects for new aircraft. But I do not think that this attacks the central weakness of our position at all. Europe has a larger population than the United States and is just as extensive geographically, but it makes much less use of civil aviation. The United Kingdom and the E.E.C. countries together buy only about half as many aircraft as the U.S.A., and the utilisation is generally lower. That means that Europe is making relatively less use of this form of transport and that there is consequently less opportunity for European aircraft to prove their qualities in their domestic markets and to get their costs down by long production runs. In this way, they become less attractive to overseas aircraft buyers.
If this is so, it seems to me that improving the environment for civil air transport in Europe should be a vital part of any programme of technological co-operation. Initiative could be taken in a number of directions. For example, we all know the notorious unreliability of European weather, which causes all kinds of delays and diversions and diminishes the appeal of air traffic. But fully reliable automatic landing systems are now available. Could they not be brought into standard use and so make European aviation completely reliable in any type of weather? Again, much of Europe is densely populated. If we consider only cities with populations of more than 250,000, there are more than twice as many of them situated within 1,000 km. of each other as in the United States. This, it would seem to me, points to a real need for short take-off aircraft working from small airfields, and particularly to the development of really accurate integrated air traffic control systems leading to a dense network of short-range inter-city services.
My Lords, these remarks bring me back to the point that I tried to make at the outset. What we really need most of all is not large and spectacular projects but technological co-operation in depth, right down to the level of individual industries and firms. I believe that large aerospace projects will be of value in the long term only in so far as they encourage and promote the will to a far more wide 514 spread integration of what I would call Europe's at present underdeveloped industrial capability.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
My Lords, in rising to participate in this debate I, too, must thank the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for putting down this Motion and giving us this opportunity to discuss collaboration on technological matters in Europe. I propose to be as brief as possible, because of the long list of speakers remaining, and to confine my remarks to aircraft collaboration in particular. The collaboration in aeronautical matters has not been uniformly successful, at least to date. I should like to consider four principal projects; at least principal so far as I see them, although I realise that there may be other noble Lords who would put a higher priority on other projects.
First, I would mention the Anglo-European air-bus, now designated the A 300B. I am of the opinion that this project has failed so far and that the promise that it holds is so limited as to suggest that we ought actively to consider whether or not to continue in it. We know—or at least we were told just before Christmas—that the cost of that project had very seriously escalated. Then, just after that escalation had been announced, we heard that a radical redesign had taken place and that we were now to call the aircraft the A 300B. It was to be a smaller aircraft fitted with the RB 211 engine which had been so successful in the American market. I would ask the noble Lord who is to reply whether he can give us the latest figure on the cost of that project having regard to the recent re-design.
The increase in cost, however, is not the only objection I have to that project. The second objection concerns the question of minimum orders of which the Government made great play when we were considering this aircraft on an earlier occasion. They said, I think, that 75 was the minimum level of orders that could be accented but the airlines were reluctant to commit themselves to that figure and that they, the Government, were therefore unwilling to proceed with the project. The re-design of the project which was announced just before Christmas was apparently done at the behest of the airlines, and there should 515 therefore now presumably be no objection to the airlines committing themselves more firmly to the aircraft. But they have not done so. Perhaps, therefore, there are further difficulties, which might result in our having to look elsewhere for a suitable machine.
But, my Lords, regardless of the airlines, I have very grave doubts about proceeding with any large transport aircraft of this nature which has only two wing-mounted engines. The tri-engine layout or the tail-engine layout is, in the view of many people, a much safer and a better arrangement. We notice with interest that the Boeing Company, until recently exponents of the underwing design are now tending to go back to the tail engine design. Their latest proposal, an aircraft very competitive with the A 300B, is a tail-engined aeroplane.
The third objection to the A 300B is the question of time. We are told that that aircraft, if we now proceeded with it, could be in service in 1973. But, of course, if Boeing decided to proceed with their proposed aircraft, that could certainly be in service before 1973, not by much perhaps, but at least by a year and possibly by 18 months. That company has a very wide experience of that sort of aircraft, which is not a very advanced aircraft by Concorde or S.S.T. standards. Furthermore, because of its considerable experience in this field, Boeing is able to generate much greater customer confidence than might be possible by the consortium proposed to produce the Anglo-European aircraft, which consists of three companies—the British company Hawker Siddeley; the French company, Sud Aviation and a German company which has been specially formed for this programme.
One should not assume that the chaos—and it can hardly be called less—that surrounded the American supersonic transport problem is likely also to surround any air-bus project that they may launch. Some months ago, I asked an Unstarred Question about the future of the air-bus. At that time I pointed out what, to me, appeared to be the absurdity of proceeding with an aircraft which was going to use, as was then proposed, the RB 207 engine which at that stage was to be developed only for this aircraft. I grant that the new A 300B proposal now uses the RB 211, or smaller engine, which 516 has been ordered for the American aircraft the Lockheed 1011. This is good, but the other objections remain.
In my view, and I believe in the view of many others, the fundamental design changes—and they were fundamental—made or announced to this aircraft last Christmas were the convulsions of a dying project. I wonder if, when the noble Lord replies to the debate, he can say whether the Government are still financing the initial design work of the air-bus. We know that they were financing the design of the A 300, but there is some doubt about whether they are still providing funds for the A 300B. In my view the A 300B is a political aircraft of doubtful design philosophy, unwanted by the airlines and likely to arrive too late. I therefore urge the Government to withdraw from this project and to consider urgently whether they should not now support the BAC 311 which has been advanced as an alternative. I hold no brief for BAC, but I believe that the 311 is worthy of support. I also believe that if the Government thought it right, in the wider interests of European collaboration, to stipulate that any support for that aircraft was conditional upon major parts of the airframe being subcontracted to European constructors, this would be an acceptable and a reasonable proposal.
I should like briefly to touch on the multi-role combat aircraft. Judging by the remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, when he opened the debate, there may still be some major hurdles for that aircraft to overcome. I am always suspicious of the "multi-role" anything, particularly aircraft, and I wonder whether, if we proceed with this machine, we may not find ourselves with an aircraft designed to fill many roles but capable of filling none. This, perhaps, was one of the problems with the American F111, which had a vast number of variants to fill all sorts of different roles for the American Navy, the U.S. Air Force, and, indeed, at one stage for the R.A.F., but which, in the last resort, was found to be unsatisfactory.
My suspicions of the M.R.C.A. are deepened when I hear that the design leadership in that project, if we proceed, is to be divided; so that for the single seater aircraft the Germans will have the leadership while we shall have the 517 leadership for the two-seater machines. It seems likely, therefore, that that, too, may run the risk of becoming a political aircraft. I wonder whether the cause of European collaboration which, with reservations, I generally support, will be best fostered by advancing with projects of this nature when we might get a better aeroplane for less cost with a national project. I am perhaps biased. Being fairly closely concerned with aircraft of one form or another, I naturally tend to support the British industry. But the M.R.C.A. seems to present all sorts of problems which have not perhaps been too carefully gone into.
The other military aircraft at present under consideration—indeed, further than that, it is now flying in prototype form—the Jaguar, appears to have survived Government whims and fancies on both sides of the Channel and, with luck, may have a sound future. But, like the Concorde, to which I now come, that depends upon a satisfactory test programme. I have put clown in your Lordships' House a number of Starred Questions concerning the progress of the Concorde and, contrary to what I have been branded in the past, I am not a "Concorde knocker". Indeed, I believe that, like the Comet 1 some 15 years ago, the Concorde is now poised to scoop the pool. As testing proceeds I expect to see many of the so-far uncommitted airlines in a position where they will have to take options on, or, better still, place orders for the machine. We are often told that the future of the Concorde is doubtful because of the boom on the one hand, or perhaps, on the other hand, because people do not want to get to New York in only 3½ hours instead of 7 hours. I suggest that people who say that should study the history of air transport, and indeed of all forms of transport, rather more carefully, because every time a faster aircraft or means of transportation is applied to a particular route, the customers always want to go on the faster aeroplanes, even if, as may be the case with the Concorde, they have to pay more for doing so. When jet aircraft were introduced on the North Atlantic route, piston-engined aircraft were running half empty or worse.
Initially, of course, when the Concorde comes into service the 747s will also be operating—in other words, the large 518 jumbo jets—and I am sure that there will be a surplus of capacity, for a while anyway, while the traffic growth catches up with the available seats. In that competitive position the larger aircraft will find themselves very pressed. If, therefore, airlines are obliged to order supersonic aeroplanes, the Concorde, with its lead, variously estimated from five to seven years, is likely to be the only competitor in the market. I leave aside the Soviet supersonic aeroplane, not because I do not think it will be a competitor, but because I do not know, and I do not think that any of us can predict, what is likely to happen with that aircraft in the world markets; although it the past performance of the Soviet aircraft industry is anything to go by it is unlikely to be much of a threat.
I suggest, my Lords, that in the euphoria of the first flight of the Concorde which took place the other week and the apparent rosy commercial future before it, we ought not to forget that the programme is running very late. The lead that it has over the Boeing supersonic aeroplane (Boeing is, of course, responsible for the American supersonic programme) is due largely to the difficulties and mistakes that the Americans have made and not to the smooth progress of the British project. I wonder whether there is not an object lesson in that delay which is applicable to other collaborative projects. Perhaps the lesson is that before Concorde, Sud Aviation, the French company who all along have had design leadership for the airframe of the Concorde project, had little or no experience of a subsonic transport aircraft let alone a supersonic one. The only aircraft it had ever built was the Caravelle which was certainly a successful aeroplane but was by no stretch of the imagination a modern aeroplane, either then or now. I do not want to rub in this point too much, because clearly it is a delicate one, but we must not forget that the Concorde's first flight was a year behind schedule. One can but wonder whether that delay would have happened had the design leadership been differently arranged.
There is one other bright star in the Concorde firmament and that is the collaboration that has taken place with the greatest possible success between the British Air Registration Board and the 519 Bureau Veritas, the French air-worthiness authority. I know that my interpretation of the French position in that respect is not quite accurate but certainly the British contribution from the Air Registration Board has been splendid. I have suggested, by giving some specific examples, that collaboration has not always been as happy as it might have been. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, in his opening remarks, referred to the view of his French colleagues and others that it was difficult for them to know whether to embark on further collaborative projects with us because they wondered whether again they could take our word. I would remind your Lordships that though this point of view is understandable, it was the French who withdrew from the A.F.V.G. project, not us. There, in the background, they were quietly producing their own, and only weeks after they had withdrawn from the collaborative project their own aircraft first flew. They must have been planning that aircraft months before their withdrawal from the collaborative project.
So there are hazards in this collaboration, one of which is unilateral withdrawal, whether by us or by the French. I am convinced, however, that where properly qualified partners can be found and where financial penalties and delays—because there are always delays in collaborative projects—can be quantified and found acceptable, collaboration can be an advantage. Collaboration in aeronautical matters is an expensive and time-consuming business, but none the less I believe that it is essential.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I want to thank the noble Earl, Lord Bess-borough, for giving us the opportunity of debating this subject. I should also like to point out that while the noble Earl was going round Europe, examining the problems of co-operation between countries, finding out our shortcomings and trying to see how we could close this gap between the ebullient American economy and our apparently lagging one, I was in America on exactly the opposite errand. I had been called in by various people in America to consider whether this ebullient technology was not only running away but also creating the kind 520 of problems which the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, has illustrated so well. In fact, they were calling in the Old World to redeem the New.
I felt this acutely when listening to my noble friend Lord Chalfont. When I was in the United States, I went to Forest Lawn, that great cemetery of Evelyn Waugh's books and of Jessica Milford, where they have a huge notice, which says:Pay now, die later.I am afraid that to me this is what cost effectiveness means in the terms presented to us to-day. If the only criterion we are going to consider is cost effectiveness, then I say, "Pay now, die later", because what in fact we are selling is the ultimate quality of life.
Even in a debate of this kind on the merits of technology I do not think that we should ignore what the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, was pointing out so strongly, the corollary to this, which the noble Earl himself brought out at the beginning of his speech. There are other areas of co-operation and collaboration than technology, areas which somehow I feel cannot be judged m terms of cost effectiveness. In these areas, of air pollution, of noise abatement, of wrong urban development, we shall come to a time in the foreseeable future when the Eurasian highway will be the High Street or Main Street of the world city. Then if we go across Europe and find that it has been destroyed by all the successes of technology, we shall begin to realise the consequences which we have ignored. Therefore, I insist that one of the corollaries of our consideration of technology is to find, inside technology or outside, protection against its abuse.
There is only one other point I want to make. Until I learned that the question of cost effectiveness is apparently to be the criterion of all values—I thought it was statesmanship and political judgment which was involved in this matter but now I find that it is book-keeping—I was going to congratulate the Government on gas centrifuge and on the fact that with the Dutch and with the Germans we have arrived at some apparent settlement, not yet fully confirmed, in which I saw some kind of judgment. Over many years my concern has been the 521 dangers of nuclear arms, and the great concern which those of us who know something about this subject have had, ever since we found that the restraint of the ultimate vast cost of separation might be effectively reduced by the production of uranium 235 by gas centrifuge, is that this would give us the cut-price bomb, the Woolworth bomb. Now, this morning, I feel that we have managed to get this under control, and that through the Minister for Disarmament, Mr. Mulley, and the Minister of Technology, we are thinking of a means of effectively producing peaceful uses and controlling possible military uses. I believe, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont told us, that we have in fact secured the control of this issue within the Non-proliferation Treaty. But I hope that this is not just a question of cost effectiveness, because we may be taking this out of this worthwhile political demonstration and reducing it merely to elements which would not be highly commendable.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend would give way, in case he should sit down under some misapprehension. I would make it clear that when I talked of the judgment of cost effectiveness I was referring to a specific project for the production of a launcher by the European Launcher Development Organisation, with which the British Government decided, for arguments of cost effectiveness, not to continue and on which not to undertake any additional expenses. I should be the very last to suggest that all technological endeavour should be judged on a cost effectiveness basis. As my noble friend has rightly said, statesmanship, compassion and humanity must play a great part, and I hope that I have not given the impression that I think in any other way.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. I was merely stressing what he is stressing now: that we ought to have other values than merely whether this is going to be a cheaper or even a better way of doing something of which we disapprove. I remember that in our discussion on the 300 MeV in this House, some of us did not go on the basis of cost effectiveness, simply saying that this was going to cost as much as a naval dockyard in order to provide a high voltage accelerator 522 machine for the physicists. We felt—and I hope that most noble Lords here feel—that the judgment taken by the Government on that is a firm judgment. We felt that this was a question not of values merely in terms of money, but in terms of judgment. I myself objected to it, and would still object to it, on the grounds that we were paying danegeld to the nuclear hierarchy and that we should not in these circumstances do that kind of thing. This is not a question of cost efficiency, but a question of a larger and wider balance as to whether we want to do this kind of thing while neglecting other areas in which, as the noble Lord said, compassion and many other things enter.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I, too, should like to express my appreciation to my noble friend Lord Bessborough for initiating this debate. I apologise to my noble friend and to the House for not being in my place when he ma le his speech, but it was impossible for me to be here at that time. It is interesting to bear in mind, when considering European technological co-operation, that since the last war nearly 60 per cont. of all major technological innovations have been originated in Europe, and that half of these originated in the United Kingdom. This may possibly explain the Belgian Government's statement in their Note on technological co-operation which they presented to the Communities Council of Ministers on February 29, 1968, to the effect that in the realm of computers, nuclear generation, aircraft and spatial devices Britain had a notable technological advance from which Europe should derive all the advantages possible.
It is also certainly welcome news that on December 10 last the Council of Ministers unanimously adopted a resolution opening the way to closer technological co-operation between the Six and other European countries, especially Britain and the other three membership applicants. But I think this will not mean much unless Governments are prepared to take positive decisions on specific industries and projects. If one considers Europe's space programme, I think it is fairly true to say that it is at the moment in disarray on account of Her Majesty's Government's attitude. I understand that during the Western European Union Parliamentary Committee meeting held 523 mid-January in London the French representatives said that Her Majesty's Government's policy on European techological co-operation was falling between two stools. They said that Her Majesty's Government were criticising, and withdrawing from plans for developing European rocket launchers without proposing anything worth while to replace them.
In the same vein, Mr. Theo Lefevre, the Belgian Science Minister, and the current President of the ELDO Council of Ministers, commenting recently on the present situation in European space cooperation, and expressing views regarding the merging of Europe's space organisations, had this to say:Looking back, we can now see that it was a mistake to set up in 1963 two European space organisations"—he was referring to ELDO and ESRO—one for launchers and the other for scientific satellites, instead of creating a European NASA.I understand that last year the Spaey Committee was set up, and that agreement was reached between Britain and the Six regarding the functioning of a European NASA, though I understand, too, that a compromise was reached at that time regarding launchers. Since then it would appear that Her Majesty's Government have been dragging their feet regarding a long-term applications programme, which in the past, anyhow, I understand has held up the drafting of a European NASA convention. In view of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said earlier regarding this Convention, which is soon to be drafted, does that mean that a long-term applications programme has now been agreed with our partners?
In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said about cost-effectiveness in his intervention when Lord Ritchie-Calder was speaking (and I am thinking here of launchers), does he not feel that in the interests of European unity Her Majesty's Government should reconsider their attitude so as to adhere to a principle which was agreed, in effect, at the Bonn Conference; namely, "solidarity until objectives are achieved", instead of solidarity as far as the ceiling?—and I am talking about the financial ceiling. Does the noble Lord not feel in this context that it is most regrettable that, 524 again, M. Lefevre, a Minister of a country which has supported us so diligently and effectively in the past, should feel compelled to say, in an interview reported in the Brussels paper, Le Soir: "Britain has let us down."?
Turning to computers, the merging of companies which produced International Computers Limited may have engendered a quantitative change in the structure of Britain's computer industry which may well be capable of "buttoning up" (if I may use that expression) the United Kingdom's computer market. But the real struggle for power must take place in Europe. With this in mind, I understand that this company is looking towards Europe to extend and reinforce opposition to the Americans. Can the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, tell us, when he comes to reply, whether Her Majesty's Government are giving any encouragement with regard to a grouping of European companies in this particular field?
In this context of computers, I should like to quote some words from Christopher Layton's recent book, European Advanced Technology, in which he says:Governments should encourage this process of industrial integration by working out joint requirements in computer systems, agreeing on a common policy for the standardisation of data coding and high-level languages, and using the financial help they give to development to promote European companies instead of purely national ones.It would seem that the opportunities in this field for computers are vast, for according to Louis Armand, in his book, Le Pari Européen, consideration is even being given to placing in orbit the "memories" of computers so that they may be consulted from all points on earth—in other words, libraries of the sky.
As the noble Lord, Lord Brown, said in Brussels on February 8, 1968, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, said earlier to-day, it was necessary for Europe to create a single, homogeneous, industrially developed market. He also said that Britain, as a contribution to its development, was collaborating towards the technological development of Europe on a Government-to-Government basis; also in the sharing of research programmes and by commercial arrangements between industries. Surely much more needs to be done to facilitate inter-penetration between firms in the United Kingdom and 525 on the Continent and towards promoting increased joint requirements. On the aircraft and components side, for instance, Dowty in the United Kingdom and Messier in France have created joint subsidiaries; the French subsidiary to handle contract work for the Jaguar, the British subsidiary for the airbus.
On the hovercraft side, the British Hovercraft Corporation are co-operating with an Italian group regarding a military requirement. I understand, too, that the British Hovercraft Corporation are interested in the French URBA system manufactured by La Societé l'Energetique. I understand that this could lead to a joint requirement for such a type of urban transportation. But for this type of linkup to thrive I feel that a far less nationalistic outlook is required in this country. I have given only small examples of co-operation, but I feel that we should be thinking in terms of large-scale twinning of companies. I also feel—in fact I am fairly confident—that the Minister will have been interested in the example of the Agfa-Gevaert combination of companies which, as Christopher Layton says in his book, presents an up-to-date case study in overcoming the existing obstacles to merging across European frontiers; in other words, a European response to the challenge of American scale.
Earlier on the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, referred to the fact that the Communities Council had agreed to a French proposal for a European patents system to he examined. If I understood the Minister aright, he expressed willingness for Her Majesty's Government to participate in any discussions for creating a European Patents Board. I must say that the news the noble Lord has given this afternoon is most welcome, for again according to Louis Armand's hook this question of a European patent system has been considered now for the last 15 or 16 years. As to the Maréchal Committee, to which the Minister referred, I understand that that Committee was instructed to submit by March of this year a report on the possibilities for co-operation with non-member countries. Can the Minister when he comes to wind up say whether the report is out and is being studied by the Council of Ministers?
In conclusion, my Lords, I would say that one hears around this country and in Europe much about technological co 526 operation and all the benefits one should derive from it, but so far little of a positive nature seems to have been done. As I said, excessive nationalism in various countries is a lot to blame for this, and one hopes that Her Majesty's Government could take a certain lead, when considering the Communities Council's proposals, resulting from the Maréchal Committee report, to achieve to a greater extent a concerted policy regarding orders in the public sector. That is something which the Belgian Government raised last year in the Council of Ministers of the Communities, and I hope that this is a matter which Her Majesty's Government will consider very carefully, for without this it seems to me that it will be difficult to build up European technological cooperation to any great extent or to achieve a larger grouping of companies.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ LORD KINGS NORTON
My Lords, the Motion which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, has moved this afternoon, and which we have all welcomed, relates specifically to progress in European technological co-operation. I feel that some noble Lords this afternoon have interpreted that term somewhat liberally. Technology is the application of experience and scientific knowledge to the creation of new things and new processes; and my personal hope is that any new European ventures in technology in which we participate will be in accordance with that definition and will, moreover, be designed to be, if successful, of true benefit to both ourselves and our colleagues.
I cannot help feeling that for the time being we are producing new scientific facts quite fast enough and that any additional effort in the field of science and technology should largely be devoted to applying them. This is not a theorem for all time, but as I say for the time being. I believe we should at present be concentrating on producing new "hardware", new systems, new processes, both at home and in our collaboration with Europe, and the quite ordinary firms can play an important part. Whether the new institutes under the Maréchal Committee are likely to have a similar point of view I do not know, but I certainly hope so.
Recently there has been a great deal of direct international co-operation in technology. The most massive example, as has been mentioned several times this 527 afternoon, is the Concorde. After years of labour, elaborate arrangements for Franco-British collaboration, the great test programme has started satisfactorily. One cannot but wonder, however, whether this great feat of technology, which is a notable monument to international co-operation, would not have been easier to achieve had there been, as the noble Earl suggested in a more general context, a single person in overall charge; and not only a single person in overall charge, I would say, but a single organisation for the task. We have had the picture of two great organisations working in concert, and, good as the result has been, I think the concert orchestra would inevitably have been more harmonious under a single conductor. The development of modern technology is difficult enough without organisational complication.
I have seen something of this myself because, as Chairman of the Air Registration Board, I have been concerned with the achievement, not only, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, mentioned, with the Bureau Veritas but with the Secretariat General d'Aviation Civile and the Section Technique Aeronautique, of a single set of airworthiness requirements by which to judge the safety of the Concorde. Once again, good will and common sense have triumphed, but the adoption of a single code of a single authority would have been far less wearing for all concerned. That is one of the things which will have to be brought to pass if the future of civil aviation in Europe, as the noble Lord, Lord Todd, was envisaging it, is to eventuate in a reasonable time.
But it is not much use being critical of the organisations which exist unless one is prepared to make suggestions for what might take their place. My feeling is, my Lords—I am not now referring to the Concorde or to any particular case at all—that international technological objectives are best achieved by single international technological teams, and that these are most likely to come into existence as the result of industrial associations, either consortia of European companies or mergers of European companies, or special companies brought into existence for special projects and internationally staffed. I should like British firms to be 528 encouraged to look across the Channel and to look across the North Sea to see with whom they might effect advantageous commercial conjunctions—and here I think I am on the same track as the noble Lord, Lord Merrivale, was a few moments ago.
There are many technological objectives which British firms are perfectly capable of achieving on their own. There are some which begin to look too big for single firms, and occasionally too great even for an association of British firms alone. Sometimes, too, technology developed abroad is more stimulating or more advanced than our own, and it is not difficult to discover a number of areas where the combined effort of a Continental and a United Kingdom firm would be definitely fruitful. It is possible to identify combinations of, say, British production efficiency and Dutch technology, or British scientific strength and French manufacturing skills, which, if effected, would be industrially especially powerful. I agree with the noble Earl that it would not be inappropriate for such combinations to receive Governmental assistance in our own case, possibly, through the I.R.C.
My chief reason for speaking in this debate to-day, therefore, is simply to emphasise the advantages of industrial technological co-operation with Europe; to emphasise in fact just one of the facets of the wide-ranging speech made by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough. We are familiar in industry with the notion of buying and selling licences for know-how and paying and receiving royalities for the use of patents. This is the minimum kind of co-operation. I should like to see, in a variety of industries, more international teamwork aimed at profitable and beneficial objectives. Collaboration need not be confined to great projects at national level.
One final point. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, suggested that ELDO suffered because it had no clear commercial objective. I think he is right, and I understood the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, agreed. But the European uranium project reported in the Press this morning does not appear to suffer from this defect. It can indeed be profitable in the usual commercial sense of the word, and I found it encouraging to gather from the communiqué that this 529 considerable technological operation is likely to be organised on sound industrial lines.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, as others have done, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, upon moving this important Motion on European co-operation so skilfully. As drawn it covers an immensely wide range of subjects, and for this reason it is an attractive debate to take part in, because it is to be hoped that one does not repeat too much of what has been said before. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, perhaps flatters a number of us when he indicates that he is the only non-expert on technology who is taking part. My purpose in taking part in this debate to-day is to draw attention to the aircraft industry in European co-operation, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has done, and as I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Granville of Eye, will do.
This industry has proved, I believe, the most difficult of all to harmonise successfully into European collaboration, as the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, has said. Its potential benefits are enormous—greater, I believe, than many of the subjects which have been raised this afternoon. A strong European aircraft industry has the obvious advantages of shared research and development costs, the basic home market which its members provide, and its experience and expertise in the design of new aircraft. All these can surely wrest from the American aircraft industry the near-monopoly grip it has at present over the Western markets.
This American stranglehold in practice means the supply of some 85 per cent. of all civil and military aircraft in service in the Western World. Above these natural advantages a strong European aviation industry has one great commercial advantage over the American industry, and that is the remarkable difference between the man-hour costs. I am told that the man-hour costs in Europe are approximately one-third of what they are in America. If one relates this to production, one finds that the man-hour costs of aircraft amount to something like 50 per cent. of the cost of building the aircraft. It is this factor among others, which in time must make a European 530 aircraft industry very competitive with its American counterpart.
Having described what I believe are the obvious benefits of European co-operation, and adding, if I may, the important fact that the civil aviation industry is without doubt a very great growth industry, I am led to ask what we see as the result, so far, of European collaboration and the effect it has had on the British aircraft industry. I believe that the answer to that would be, from an optimist, "disappointing", and from a pessimist, "very damaging".
On the military side (and perhaps I could say here it always appears that on the military side there is a distinct advantage over the civil side, as Governments are the main purchasers and the manufacturers are assured of at least a minimum market), there have been three major projects, not including the helicopters. In the first place, there was the ill-fated A.F.V.G. project. In my opinion the cancellation of this project, on which the Government had set their hearts as the cornerstone of our defence policy, caused a serious setback in European co-operation; and it led to serious doubts as to the real intentions of France, as to the future of European collaboration and the role which each partner would play in it.
To be more cheerful, one looks at the Jaguar project. This project already has a basic market of over 400 aircraft and from all accounts it seems to be going rather well. It is a project with a joint company with, I believe, a good central control—something which the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, reminded us was an essential factor. Then we have the important potential project, the M.R.C.A. which again the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, mentioned. This is the successor to the A.F.V.G. and is a contender for the lush and rich markets of the replacement to the 1,000-odd F104s serving the NATO countries. In my opinion this project is vital to the future health of the British aircraft industry yet, despite the noble Lord's words of comfort this afternoon, we witness delay von delay in the making of any announcement. We read of meeting after meeting between Governments, with no apparent decisions being taken; and now we hear from the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, 531 that there is a whisper that the whole project may be abandoned in favour of a French project. I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to give us some firm assurance that this is not true; and I should be glad if, at the same time, he could give us some facts—as, for instance, the date when the proposed agreement is to be signed with the Germans.
If I may now turn briefly to the civil side of aviation, we see the two major projects. We see the Concorde, which has already been discussed, and also the European air-bus. Like the M.R.C.A. it is clouded with uncertainty: uncertainty whether it is the right aircraft; uncertainty whether it will be a commercial success; and uncertainty about which European partners will be eventually involved in it. We read that the Government are very hesitant as to whether they should commit a sizeable investment into what in their opinion may be considered a doubtful commercial success. We read of the other partners' growing impatience at the Government's hesitancy, and we learn now that there is to be a meeting in Bonn to-morrow and on Friday between the French and German Governments when it could well be that a decision will be made to go ahead with the European air-bus without Britain. Perhaps when the noble Lord replies he could comment on whether in fact France and Germany have warned Britain of this possibility.
The result of both the military and civil joint projects is that Britain is involved in only two of the major projects and faces the strong possibility of being squeezed out of two other major projects, the M.R.C.A. and the European air-bus. The question one immediately asks oneself is what happens if the British aircraft industry does lose out on these projects. Will the Government finance the industry to go it alone with British projects, or will the Royal Air Force be reduced to purchasing American or French replacements or B.E.A. to purchasing an American or European air-bus?
The measure of the success of collaboration for the aircraft industry has up to now in my opinion been very frustrating, and the reasons, I believe, are mainly two. The first is the problem 532 of national prestige, coupled with a deep I suspicion among the partners as to what role and share of the cake each will get. And the second is lack of central control, as the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, said, of each project, leading to delays and rising costs and much frustration. From all of this I believe that the British aircraft industry has a special case now for careful Government protection in European collaboration. It is by far the largest and most powerful partner, twice the size of the French industry, six times the size of the German industry. And for that reason it is the most vulnerable. It has the greatest experience and knowledge and it is equal in this field to the American industry. It carries out most valuable export orders and of course is again the centre of a great growth industry.
It is my belief that this great industry has in the past been not strongly enough supported by the Government, particularly over the terms of agreement of the European project. For instance, over the five major projects the British airframe industry has been given only one design leadership and that was the leadership of the ill-fated A.F.V.G. project. I really do not think that is very good. The British equipment industry has also, I think, had little protection. In the case of the Concorde, Sud Aviation has tended to go to the American aeronautical equipment companies when no suitable equipment is available in France. On the other hand, to give the Government credit, the British aero engine industry, and Rolls Royce in particular, have been supported particularly over the European air-bus project. If, however, the project is built without Britain it is doubtful in many people's minds whether Rolls Royce would in fact win the contract.
I would end by saying that basically European collaboration must be right in the long term view. I believe our experience up to now has been very frustrating, and I hope the lessons have been learned. What I believe is the real problem facing the Government and the British aircraft industry to-day is not the long-term future of European co-operation but the immediate threat of an apparent policy of a so-called European partner to exclude us from two of the major projects to come, the air-bus and the M.R.C.A. If this threat should 533 become a reality, the British industry would, I believe, be faced with a serious danger of becoming merely a sub-contractor of the future, unless the Government are prepared to back it on a "go-it-alone" policy with British projects. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, described his Motion as an Easter egg which he hoped was not infertile. The proof of infertility will, I think, be judged by the way the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, replies to the debate. I hope that in the case of the aviation industry he will be able to say something to reassure the Government's support for the industry. Such support now seems more than ever vital during these rather turbulent times of European co-operation.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for introducing this Motion. It covers a very wide spectrum, and the aspect on which I shall mainly concentrate is the danger of using technology for political purposes. It has been said with truth that this country is ahead of other Western European countries in most fields of technology, though many of the European countries are making rapid strides. Since the direct road into Europe is blocked for the foreseeable future, it has no doubt been very tempting to use such technological advantage as we have as a stalking horse to try to get ourselves in by a roundabout route. I was on the whole encouraged by the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, on this matter, and I think that I may be speaking on very much the same wavelength.
Apart from specific projects and proposals, some large kites have been flown from Whitehall; for example, the proposal for a European technological community, whatever that meant. That kite has, I think, been hauled down and been replaced by more concrete proposals; for example, that for a European technological institute, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, referred. On specific projects, past experience illustrates the hazards of trying to exploit technology for political ends. The ELDO proposal, for example, was designed to off-load Blue Streak on to Europe. It was not a success, and we were, in my personal view, quite right to decide to 534 come out of that organisation. Perhaps it is "offside" to comment on the Concorde so soon after its maiden flight, yet its story demonstrates what can happen when a political objective is paramount. We must all hope that the Concorde will prove to be a viable commercial aeroplane. I was very much encouraged by the optimism of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, on this subject. However, I suspect that the Government were quite right to try to cancel it on technical and cost grounds five years ago. But they found that they were caught in a political net from which there was no escape.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to intervene. He mentioned Concorde. I accept, despite my optimism, that the Concorde must prove itself in its test programme to justify ultimate production.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
I thank the noble Lord. I would illustrate my theme in the context of atomic energy, the area of which I have the greatest experience though I recognise that I may now be somewhat out of date. It is in the field of atomic energy that we have the only technological community which has so far been brought into existence, Euratom, and its history clearly brings out the difficulties inherent in this type of organisation. Frustrated by nationalistic policies, saddled with an expensive research programme mainly directed to the development of a reactor probably without a commercial future, it gives clear indications of what to avoid in the future.
Happily, atomic energy also provides an example of a successful venture in European technological collaboration, the Dragon project. It has had the advantage of a specific objective, the development of a reactor prototype with commercial possibilities. It has the further advantage of the management having been in the hands of a single country. Here I should like to support strongly the views of noble Lords who have advocated this principle of single management as opposed to separate management and separate design and development teams. Admittedly, there were some delays due to the international nature of the project and to the difficulty of awarding and carrying out contracts in a number of countries, but national projects are also subject 535 to delays, and the Dragon was not greatly out of line in this respect. This project has been notable for its low political content and minimal Government interference. The design has now been taken up by a European industrial consortium, British, German and Swiss, and is being marketed on its economic merits.
My next point, which has a strong bearing on the character of future projects, is the progress now made in this country, the Netherlands and Germany in the development of isotope separation in uranium by the centrifuge method, to which a number of noble Lords have referred. The news that an agreement on the shape of this project has been reached between the three countries is welcome. I do not know whether there has been a technological breakthrough in this most difficult process, and I hope that any temptation on the part of the Press and others to overplay the prospects will be strongly resisted. Atomic energy projects have suffered severely in the past from premature and exaggerated claims of industrial and commercial success.
If this process really now shows promise of being technically feasible and economically viable on an industrial scale, then it may well be more suitable for the satisfaction of European needs for low enriched uranium than an increase in diffusion plant capacity. But I trust it will be left to an industrial consortium or consortia to develop and market the process. I was encouraged by reports in the Press that this is in fact the intention and that there will be one prime contractor to build the plant, and a single marketing organisation. I listened carefully to what the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont, had to say on this subject, and I found it reassuring as far as it went. Of course, I realise that there are international implications in this project; notably that there is an inspection problem in relation to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and that this must be handled between Governments. But otherwise I hope that the project will not be dealt with as a matter of high political significance, but rather as a co-operative industrial and commercial undertaking.
I do not suppose that there is any field in which there is a greater duplication and waste of resources in Europe than in 536 the field of fast reactor technology, which was mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, and by the noble Lord, Lord Todd. The extreme nationalism of the European approach to this subject is the prime cause of this duplication; and in view of the major lead in this field which this country enjoys, we cannot be blamed for it. However, now that the fast reactor is on the verge of commercial exploitation, it seems that a fresh attempt should be made towards some rationalisation of the European effort.
Here, again, I consider that this attempt can best be made at the industrial level, and the first step so far as this country is concerned must surely be to commercialise the work on the Dounreay fast reactor by transferring the responsibility for the construction and completion of the prototype to industry. I have therefore noted with some pleasure that there is a proposal to transfer the Atomic Energy Authority fast reactor team to one of the consortia, and I hope that any difficulty there may be in doing this will be resolved as quickly as possible. The sooner the Nuclear Power Group takes charge, the sooner it can explore the possibility of collaboration with other European industry.
This brings me to the question of nuclear fuel. Here the Atomic Energy Authority has already taken steps to collaborate with Europe by setting up joint fuel companies in Italy and Germany, with the Italian company making progress. This is another field in which it should be possible to operate by means of a European consortium at the industrial level. But a further step needs to be taken in this country before great progress is likely to be made in this direction. This step is to transfer the nuclear fuel operations of the Atomic Energy Authority to a separate company in which, while the Authority may have a substantial holding, it would also take industrial partners who are already involved in the nuclear fuel field, like Rio-Tinto-Zinc and Rolls Royce. This was one of the recommendations of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, and it would be interesting to know what progress is being made in putting this recommendation into effect. Perhaps the Minister may be able to say something about this matter when he comes to reply. There is not much room for delay in this field if we are not 537 once more to be overtaken by an international company based in the United States.
Much is made about the success of CERN as a co-operative venture in the field of higher energy physics, and it has indeed been a success, but it is well known that international collaboration gets easier as the project approximates to pure basic research, and progressively more difficult the nearer you get to industrial and commercial application. The objective of CERN, for all the huge sums invested in it and proposed to be invested in its possible successor, is pure research. The same is true of nuclear fusion, a field in which Euratom can claim some success.
Judging from these precedents, I believe better results are likely to follow in the future by dealing with most large collaborative schemes as industrial and commercial enterprises rather than as political or prestige projects. Nowadays, Governments are so heavily involved in research and development, and indeed in national industrial applications, that it may be impracticable to denationalise such ventures altogether. My belief is—here, I think I am saying in different words the same thing as the noble Lord, lord Kings Norton—that they should be approached on their economic and commercial merit and left as far as possible to the industries in each country to work out. I have no recent information as to how Foratom is getting along, but I think that this organisation might serve as an instrument for the kind of European industrial collaboration which is needed in the nuclear field.
I submit that political advantage (at all events, in successful cases there will be substantial political gain) should be treated as "fall out" from the technological collaboration, rather than the other way round. It seems that in the past projects have been selected for political reasons and the economic and commercial advantages taken largely on trust. Technological success, as many American examples show, is due more to management than to scientific research, more to practical organisation and proper market research than to political motives: one design team, not two; single management for each project, not a duumvirate or a triumvirate. These are preconditions for success. Official supervision may indeed be necessary where 538 Governmental money is involved, but it should not lead to interference or to an attempt to control management. There is, however, one area in which collaboration is essential on a Governmental level, and that is in NATO, where the Scientific Committee offers an important forum for European and European/North American scientific collaboration. With the revival of support in the evolution of NATO as a result of the Czechoslovak crisis it would be interesting to know—perhaps I should know—how this organisation is progressing.
There is just one more view which I have to express, arising out of inter-Governmental co-operation, and that is that the lesser should be preferred to the greater. If a Community or a new organisation is proposed, settle for an Institute; if an Institute is proposed, try for a specific project. The International Geophysical Year and the Year of the Quiet Sun were examples of successful international scientific collaboration without the need to set up any permanent international organisation. Such an organisation, even an Institute, involves the creation of a vested interest and an international bureaucracy, with all the expensive administrative consquences that flow from it.
One word, in conclusion. The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred to Mr. Christopher Layton's book, European Advanced Technology—and very interesting it is. But I would strike a note of of caution. The book seems often to asume that Europe is as we should like it to be, not as it is. The programme it advocates is so ambitious as to be unrealistic in terms of current European attitudes. We shall, I fear, have to be content with more modest and more partial solutions in a smaller number of cases. I have ventured to suggest one or two in areas of which I have had some experience, but even so I fear that I may have been propounding counsels of perfection.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, for initiating this debate and giving those of us who have given a thought to various aspects of the subject an opportunity to place their conclusions on record. My noble friend Lord Chalfont stated that a Convention report 539 on the European patent situation might be expected. For the five minutes or so which I intend speaking I should like to concentrate on that one problem which must be solved before any real, cohesive technological co-operation can be developed and stabilised.
There is a long history of the lack of co-ordination in the practice of patent law, and the differences have to be experienced in order to realise how wide they can be between one country and another. The need, therefore, to have another and. I hope, final examination of these differences is an urgent prerequisite to any progress in co-operation, especially where the products of research are brought to fruition. Such an examination might prove a greater degree of possible kinship between us and one or two of the nations of the E.E.C. A start has to be made to finalise this problem. This start could be one of the "limited and specified spheres" which the noble Lord. Lord Gladwyn, suggested in his speech in this Chamber on March 4. From a Convention report, which should be thorough, an end could be made of the differences in patent law and practice and a new European pattern could emerge. It would be one problem we could solve outside the Treaty of Rome. Until this particular problem is solved there will always be the danger of handicapping complete technological co-operation, if not of crippling it seriously.
My Lords, my right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade announced on May 10, 1967, the appointment of a Departmental Committee to examine and report on the British patent system and patent law. He also stated his intention to set up a Standing Committee to advise the Board of Trade on more urgent questions of international collaboration in patent matters. If this Standing Committee has been appointed I should like to ask whether progress has been sufficient for a report in the not too distant future.
From the information in the second paragraph of page 29 of the brochure entitled Britain and International Scientific Co-operation we learn that:Since 1945 much discussion on harmonisation of national patent laws and on the possibilities of some form of international patent grant has taken place"—540 I repeat, since 1945—and is continuing—for example in the Council of Europe and among member countries of the E.E.C. and EFTA and, recently, at the Secretariat of the Industrial Property Union.In 1962 the E.E.C. countries published a draft convention relating to a European Patent Law and the Board of Trade issued a translation. At that time the United Kingdom Government said that if, as seemed likely, the final convention were satisfactory it would wish to accede provided that it could do so as a full member.This was in 1962. We are now in 1969, and we are not yet members.
My Lords, we are now discussing what is possible within "the limited and specified spheres" which were suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and if we take the limited and specified sphere of approach one need is to harmonise and, if possible, standardise the form of international patents of European industry, if European industry is to close the technology gap. There are difficulties in the way; one, of course, is of language as well as practice, but the English language is becoming increasingly more of a lingua franca even for the Japanese, as well as for other countries. I think it would be right to say that the standards of British patent agents are on the highest professional level and could very well be included in the basis of a code of international conduct.
Our approach to patent law is based on our common law, and the Continental system is based on civil law. There is a considerable difference. It is sad, even ironic, to realise that we in this country started the patent system way back in the seventeenth century. Now we have to wait upon others whose systems are yet lacking in many of the fruits of our experience. We should be ready now with a new initiative of our own to unite, step by step, with, say, Germany and Holland, and others who might then see the advantage of such co-operation. Ultimately we could agree on a form of European patent; and unless we do I cannot see full-scale development of European technological co-operation at all. One thing I think is certain: the United States, especially the big companies in the United States, would welcome the institution of a European patent control system. If this step can be achieved, the closing of the technology gap could extend beyond Europe.
541 In conclusion I would say this. The need was identified and pinpointed 24 years ago. Is it not time that we took the initiative in a new limited approach, in the hope that the merits of our efforts to seek collaboration will inspire others to co-operate. Even success in a limited approach must be pursued with determination before we can establish a new and lasting foundation on which good will can be built. My Lords, I apologise that in a few minutes I have to leave for another engagement and I therefore regret that I shall not be able to hear the speech of my noble friend Lord Chalfont in reply to the debate.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Bess-borough for putting down this Motion and introducing it so skilfully. As my noble friend mentioned, we have seen the publication of Christopher Layton's book entitled European Advanced Technology which takes the reader on a conducted tour through the technological gardens of Europe with a nicely embroidered commentary about what is blooming and what is not. Mr. Layton considers that a good deal is not blooming. Those who are specialists will recognise the levels of perception that he achieves, and certainly his book and for that matter a good deal of other published material drives us into realising that there are critical thresholds in most advanced sciences and technologies below which our efforts can largely be dissipated and above which we have to work in order to achieve any success at all, but that in the latter case the rewards sometimes can be very high indeed.
It has been said that history is not a good guide because we have improved since then, and if we have it is because intuitive thinking has become a highly technical matter. Some promising lines of development or scientific research fail to yield results as expected after enormous effort and sums of money have been expended, and in research in particular misses are probably more frequent than hits. If it was easy to get hits all the time, then we should not be troubled with the agonising decisions about the allocation of national funds. Here is where the difficulties lie—in trying to get our priorities right and in trying to deploy 542 available funds to the best advantage. And it does not always mean "going it alone". Results can be achieved by co-operation on an international basis and my noble friend's Motion seeks to highlight this in Europe. There are two main matters to consider: first, to seek ways of building up joint research efforts in order to save money and avoid duplication; secondly, to seek industrial alignments to obtain economies of scale, and in both cases to match United States progress. There is no point in joining in international co-operative ventures unless there is some particular point in doing so on the lines I have mentioned.
In the scientific field, it is "big" science that strains national budgets and the co-operative ventures in space and high energy physics are worth reviewing. I should like to declare an interest in both these fields. As the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, CERN, which started in the early '50s as a European centre for the study of high energy physics, has matched the United States' efforts in this direction and can be regarded as an extension to the facilities of a number of European universities, facilities which any one country would find difficulty in affording and which has given the Treaty countries in Europe the opportunity of making a major contribution to the advancement of fundamental science in the field of particle physics. In the words of the Convention,CERN provides for collaboration among European States in nuclear research of a pure scientific and fundamental character and in research essentially related thereto.Its output is therefore largely in terms of scientific knowledge. Accounts of all work are published and annually it publishes a highly professional report, not the sort of report which could be debated in your Lordships' House.
CERN has developed steadily over the years and has recently conceived a number of expensive projects indeed, most of which have attracted the support of the Treaty countries, the latest of which—and most expensive of all—is the 300 GeV accelerator which, if it goes ahead, is to cost £150 million by 1977. Assuming a 9 per cent. growth rate in this country of Science Research Council expenditure per year, the experts believe that our contribution, which is around 25 per cent., to the 300 GeV project can be contained 543 within the existing budgets as distributed over the many fields of science. The technical case for the 300 GeV accelerator has been made out and the implications of the proposed United Kingdom involvement have been fully discussed in the White Paper on the subject. As a result, the Government have concluded that we cannot justify participation at present on financial grounds. Unfortunately, nobody has yet thought of a cheaper way of carrying out particle physics studies and the scientific merit of the new accelerator is not in doubt. If we have the money, I believe that this is a pure science investment which is justified subject to safeguards.
But what is going to happen? This is one of the fields where making headway clearly means working above the critical threshold of effort and facilities. If we do not contribute in due course to the 300 GeV accelerator, and the other Treaty countries in consequence decide to abandon the project, then to remain in a viable position in this field of science our national effort would have to he stepped up above the threshold—and probably the CERN contribution anyway—otherwise we shall have to consider the possibility of opting out of the main high energy field and reducing our efforts to fringe work. Will the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in his reply he able to give us the Government's present thinking on participation in this particular venture in the CERN programme and, for that matter, their general thinking on the future of CERN? Do the Government feel that the Convention could be renegotiated in any way in order to improve it?
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, will the noble Lord explain why he thinks that it is desirable that this should be done in Europe, rather than in America or in the U.S.S.R.? I should have thought that it is equally possible for scientists to share in any activity of this sort, wherever it occurs.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, on this point, and in fact it may well be the best thing to co-operate with other countries not on a European basis, but on a world basis.
CERN has been one example of how to organise a European scientific centre 544 and keep it going over the years. The ingredients needed for doing this are imaginative programmes and continuity. But there is a grave danger now that a gap could occur after the completion of experiments using the intersecting storage rings. However, there is one other aspect of CERN which has caused some concern to a great many people. It is that contracts gained by British industry for supplying CERN facilities have been few and far between. Reasons have been argued over and over again, but I believe that it is not surprising in view of the fact that CERN have no special mandate to encourage technology and industrial participation, which, incidentally, is in direct contrast to ESRO. But I feel that in cases of European co-operative ventures, contracts to industry count as benefits, and if the ground rules are well-conceived British industry can compete as well as any in Europe. One cannot force industry to get contracts with CERN, but I should be interested to hear whether the Government have given further thought to this particular aspect of CERN affairs and what new conclusion they have reached.
I should like to talk about ESRO, which was conceived in 1960 and is similar in principle to the CERN organisation and I think has a better set of ground rules, even though its charter is slightly different. I have been personally connected with the ESRO organisation as a supplier. I have seen it grow from a small hut in the gardens of Delft University to the network of establishments which now exist in various Treaty countries. It is a remarkable rate of growth in these initial years.
The convention defines that provision must be made:to promote collaboration among European States in space research and technology exclusively for peaceful purposes".Thus industrial participation has been recognised from the start and British industry has received a speakable share of contracts, although still not in proportion to the subscription. Unlike the CERN situation, industry has been able to identify future products more readily and has probably, therefore, put in greater efforts to get business. Also, one cannot deny that there is a strong British base for aerospace business, anyway, and this has been a natural advantage.
545 However, the present institutional arrangements are far from ideal from the point of view of ESRO, ELDO and CETS. In fact, the situation in ESRO deteriorated in 1966 to such a point that it lost its legality in the planning sense. I mean by this that it could not plan beyond 1971, and this, in the European technology centre in Holland, has certainly led to a lowering of morale and a loss of the best scientists. I do not want to detract from ESRO'S successes, as the Organisation has launched three scientific satellites with the aid of U.S. launchers, and all these satellites have been very successful indeed. This is a considerable initial achievement, but there has been a serious gap in the programmes which has brought great disillusionment in those areas.
Combination of space interests in the ELDO and ESRO organisations seems logical, so that European requirements for launch vehicles can be organised by one European space authority which can manage scientific exploration in space, as well as the more important phase which we have to consider of application satellites which, in the estimation of the broad opinion of forecasters, could bring benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds per year to Europe and the United States for a number of years ahead, for what is, by space standards, a small investment of something like £100 million. Surely this is the sort of thing in which we should have a stake.
It is all very well for ESRO to plan a large astronomical satellite, which, incidentally, if it had come off might have given ESRO technical indigestion. And the Jupiter probe—an idea which NASA has been trying to sell to Europe for a long time—would that have worked out? These are scientific projects of great magnitude. In United States' eyes we may be best at doing the scientific missions, but if we do not have a stake in applications our industry will not obtain the full benefits of exploiting space techniques. I am not here referring only to the business of making a satellite body and designing the means to launch it into this or that orbit; I am referring to all the techniques for exploiting earth resources—communications, broadcasting and monitoring the atmosphere and the weather. There is a long list of disciplines involved, such 546 as optics, photography at different wavelengths, radar, infra-red, lasers, spectroscopy, television and general electronics of a very vast nature. Analysis on a grand scale, only possible with computers and highly-developed software, would be required, and hence a sophisticated technical approach is necessary.
One might argue that it is the space fraternity which has been stimulating the use of application satellites to keep themselves in business. But some attention has been forthcoming from the earthly professions who would make use of the remote sensing and other application satellites. I have heard it said, for example, that in agriculture there is no interest in obtaining information remotely from a satellite; but, on the other hand, I find people in the fields of geography, geology, oceanography and meteorology who have expressed considerable interest. I should like to see the professions studying this problem in earnest to see what it is they want from these satellites. The reason I say this now is that there is the more delicate question of organising a resources satellite chain from the diplomatic point of view, so that distrust is not engendered by the countries who may feel that they have natural resources to exploit or to be exploited. Clearly, the United States and Russia can put up satellites and can use them in what way they like, without much objection at the moment. But if European States are going to co-operate, it will be much more necessary to arrange international agreement as soon as possible. It is far more difficult to do this at the moment than to put a satellite up into space.
I now turn to the question of a European Technical Institute which I believe, if agreement could be reached, could focus its interests on to the really important fields of technical excellence, such as computers, underwater studies, transport and power generation. Little has been said in detail by the Government about their idea of such a technical institute. Do they have in mind, for example, that this will be an institute like the International Institute of Refrigeration, which divides itself up into sections or commissions and conducts its business at conferences and publishes papers—in other words, a rather loosely constituted sort of institute? Or is it to be centred in one enormous permanent 547 building in one country? Probably this would not be the best idea, in any case, but it might be very sensible indeed to consider one institute with different wings or centres of excellence in different countries.
I say this because we have no European organisation centred in this country at the moment—at least, not one of which I am aware—and I think that in any future European organisation it would be essential to have an establishment here, if for no other reason than a psychological one. The Dragon reactor at Winfrith, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, is a good example of how a European establishment works in England, and I believe that Continental scientists were very impressed by it. The very fact of having European centres here would, I am sure, give a lead to British industry as well as to Europ: as a whole. If one is to get the best out of European co-operation, it does not seem logical to me always to have establishments located on the Continent of Europe. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord who will reply for the Government will say in more detail what sort of technological community is being proposed. Is he able to spell out some of the principal points which the Government have in mind?
Co-operation in science and technology ultimately strengthens industry, and it is the birth of new co-operative ventures from scratch that inspires, whether they be scientific or industrial. I believe that the most difficult thing to do is to make a success of a joint venture which picks up old projects and facilitates and tries to refashion them. Was it right, for example, to build ELDO on Blue Streak? Would ELDO have succeeded better if the European designs had started from scratch? Similarly, if a joint European venture in fast breeder reactors is set up, I believe that success would not necessarily be assured by throwing in the Dounreay reactor to seed the growth. The basis of real success in reactors might be to start work on an entirely new facility to meet considered European needs.
Scientists, it seems, do not readily like to work on other people's partly completed schemes—the "not invented here" factor comes into operation. This after 548 noon the high-speed centrifuge was mentioned, and this may be thought to be a promising project to enter into because it is something which is starting from scratch. One of the most difficult problems in connection with this venture will be the mechanical engineering of the centrifuge, so that it will work properly at the very high revolutions which will have to be achieved—something of the order of 100,000 r.p.m.
A new body which is likely to prosper is the European Molecular Biology Organisation. The big question here is: should there be a European laboratory? In the field of bio-medicine the organisation of people to work together in one laboratory does not seem to offer advantages over and above the exchanges which naturally occur. Molecular biology, which is more specialised, may not demand fantastically expensive facilities like CERN and ESRO, in which case a European laboratory will, in my view. have no particular advantages. In fact, the European Molecular Biology Conference, established by twelve nations in the CERN, Agreement on February 13 of this year, has decided that a central laboratory is not yet necessary. Medical science is in fact the most international of all sciences, and the exchanges and publications are prolific. But if very expensive facilities are required for molecular biology later on, then I think there would be some sense in creating a European central laboratory.
My Lords, in conclusion I think that the scientific areas that need strengthening most—
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord, whose speech I am following with great interest? Has he any further information he can give on this subject? I have heard a great deal about the controversy over the European Institute for Molecular Biology. He raised doubts; he mentioned them. I wondered whether he thought it was worth pursuing the arguments as to why this should be such an inappropriate area. He referred in particular to the fact that this was, in his opinion, unsuitable; that it was more suitable to small laboratories. I was wondering whether there is anything more he can say, because I think it is a very interesting subject, and it is rather depressing if this is not a suitable area.
§ LORD IRONSIDE
My Lords, I think that this is a suitable area for co-operation, but I must admit here that I have not read the detailed report on the plans for setting up the central laboratory. However, from other comment that I have come across I understand that the actual outlays for molecular biology are not very great; and the latest comment that I know of is that in fact this laboratory does not need to be considered yet. If some fantastically large facility like an enormous electron microscope, or something like that, is required, then I can see some sense in considering this particular laboratory further.
I think that the scientific areas that most need strengthening are, first, the exploitation of computer technology (and I have not mentioned this yet), in all its aspects of process control, number crunching and language—particularly language, perhaps, because here there are a variety of languages, rather like the variety of railway gauges which existed in the last century. And it may be that a European Institute concentrating on computer languages might be able to evolve what might even become a standard language. Then management techniques here are also very much concerned with computers; and in the next decade, particularly, I think, oceanography and nuclear power. There are other aspects, but I think that these are the really important ones.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ LORD GRANVILLE OF EYE
My Lords, like the noble Lord I always listen with interest to the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, to whom we are indebted for introducing another of these technological debates. He knows his subject so well, and he always makes it appear so easy to those who have the opportunity to listen to him. Yet sometimes I wonder what these debates in fact achieve. The Opposition itemise a number of queries and the Government itemise a number of replies, and that seems to be that, until the next debate. Indeed, my Lords, I sometimes wonder, listening to these debates and to the complex technological problems which have been referred to, how a busy Cabinet can take decisions on these highly technical and scientific problems at all.
550 Later, when the Government have listened to the experts and sorted out the various schools of thought—and there are many—and taken a common sense judgment on policy, in many cases these decisions taken by the Government have to be put into international agreements, both in the public and in what has been referred to as the private business sector—which of course explains why my noble friend the Minister of State is replying to this debate. But I would say, having listened to the speeches to-day, that we appear to be making progress with several projects which arc worth while, and it is my view that it is important to our standard of living in future years that we do so, for we have missed the bus so many times in the past, or have finished up buying American.
The noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, referred, as did other noble Lords, to the controversial Concorde, and I should be glad to have the assurance of my noble friend Lord Chalfont on this project. I hope that, after the tests have been made in France, and when the Concorde in this country has been flown here, the Government will take the decision to go on with this project. It has those who "knock" it in the Press; it has those who are in favour of it. But I believe that the balance of considered opinion about this, both in civil aviation and on technological grounds, will be that this aircraft not only can be a great dollar-earner for this country, one that will be able to help in a very considerable way our balance of payments problems in the 'seventies, but, even more than that, perhaps, can help us establish, or re-establish, the European lead in civil aviation.
My Lords, the great aircraft plants in this country, on the Continent and in the United States of America are going to need important projects. Both here and on the Continent, and in the United States of America, the competition is going to be intensive. Since 1935 we have increasingly, year after year, carried a great deal of our national economy in armament projects of every kind, and in our engineering and technological industries. if we get peace in Vietnam, as well as a measure of international disarmament, it will mean that Governments in all of these countries will have to turn to civil projects as never before. I ask your Lordships: in all the work 551 that is going on in research and technical development on the Continent, in the United States and in this country, are we ready for this? I believe that America is planning this now, and I believe that this is very much in the mind of President Nixon when he discusses the international industrial problems of the future.
I suppose that since 1935 a great deal of the industry of America, the Continent and this country has been concerned in what is referred to by some people as "the wasting products"; and once these vast orders for military aircraft begin to wane, we shall be hard put to it to find projects for the great plants in all countries. It is not enough to say that we are going into consumer goods. Unless we can face this problem in research and technical developments now, we may in the 'seventies be facing large-scale unemployment.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, and the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, said that many of these international projects in the public sector should be left to private industry to undertake themselves. I only hope that he will have the opportunity one day to go to the United States of America to try to sell British aircraft. I suppose one of the finest salesmen we have had there is my right honourable friend Mr. John Stone-house, who was very successful in this respect. But the moment you go to the United States of America as a representative of private industry to sell aircraft, your customer must immediately refer to Washington; and it then becomes a political matter, a matter for the Government. To think that you can go, as a representative of private industry here, to the Continent or to the United States, or to other large markets, and sell without Government backing, without Government assistance on currency, is to live in Cloud-Cuckoo-land. More and more, it is the Government that we depend upon to see that we get these large-scale orders, these great capital goods orders, that are so important to our balance of payments.
§ LORD GRANVILLE OF EYE
My Lords, if you ask any salesman of British 552 aircraft equipment who sells in the United States he will answer: Yes, it does.
My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Chalfont said in his speech, we all know it to be true that we have led in technology but have lost over marketing. Of course, whether it be in films, in aircraft or in anything else, America, with a population of 200 million against our 50 million, has a bigger market. But as my noble friend has said, this will not be so if we have the common sense to pursue our ends in combination with Europe, and with the Commonwealth. We should never forget that Australia turned to the United States for much of her technology and aircraft research and development as well as hardware because here at some time we forgot the Commonwealth—and in this thought I include Canada.
My Lords, I suppose that the one thing we have learned in recent years is that no country in our economic position and with our resources can afford many of these important and worthwhile projects which will have a great future in the '70s and '80s. No country alone can afford them: but together, in association with the European countries, we can; and it is this end that we must pursue. Of course, as many noble Lords have said in this debate, the amount of money available is one of the factors to be taken into account in deciding on any projects in competition. Which project? How much money is available? The strain on Ministers in making their decisions is considerable; the strain on technical personnel throughout industry is considerable, quite apart from the problem of the brain-drain, because the Governments of all large countries are to-day involved not only in the economic management of their nation but in these technological problems in the public and private sectors. But if we go on in the way we are going—and I believe that we are going in the right direction—the prize is great. I hope that the Minister will go forward, and will even take risks—and particularly on the Concorde—to try to achieve this aim.
§ 7.14 p.m.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, many speakers, and most justifiably, have congratulated my noble friend Lord Bess-borough on setting down this Motion for debate and on the manner in which he 553 opened it. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, in the most charming manner, chided him for occupying part of his speech with passages which he considered would be better delivered on the hustings. Of course, it would be pleasant, for a naturally peaceful and friendly character like myself, to be able to place the great subject of technology, especially in the setting of to-day's debate, above and aside altogether from politics and the conduct of the Government of the day. It would he a particular relief in view of the fact that the debate is to be wound up on behalf of the Government by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who inclines to take everything I say so terribly personally. It would indeed be agreeable to saunter through the technological garden of Europe pretending that everything in that garden was lovely with the help of British green fingers. It would be pleasant but not, I think, responsible in a Parliamentary sense.
In this debate we have had to take into account the vital importance of technology to the prosperity and standard of living of any advanced nation and, in particular, ours, so dependent through history on the skills of the people rather than on raw materials. We have had to take into account the native enterprise as well as the skill of our people which has enabled us to overcome so far, but only just so far, the handicaps of a relatively restricted home market and the lack of some most important mineral resources. We have had to take into account the impetus and inventive drive of the brilliant individuals and design teams which were employed within our borders and which were envied by many other lands five years ago.
All these elements have been deprived, disheartened or reduced in some degree during these last years when expectation has turned often to a form of disillusion. We have had to take into account—and this must be the most poignant factor of all for the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont—the great opportunity which our technological virility gave us in our bid to join the European Community. It should have been, it could have been, one of the principal keys to the Continent of Europe—to open the door. Where it has been used at all by Her Majesty's Government, it has been used too often to turn the lock against us, partially, only partially, but discouragingly.
554 In such circumstances, however tenderhearted the man at this Dispatch Box may be, those failures cannot be ignored nor the perpetrators comfortably and altogether excused. I doubt whether there is any heart more politically tender than my own. I will therefore spare the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in two ways. I will be as brief as I can in summing up the content of this full and fecund rebate, frequently critical. I will also state, in deference to the noble Lord's acute sensitivity, that I do not personally believe that he had any responsibility for any of the failures to which I soon have to refer. I will personally drape him, figuratively. in a whiter-than-white sheet in that respect.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, may I briefly interrupt to say that I doubt very much whether the noble Lord will be able to lay any failures at the door of the present Administration; but if he does he must understand that I share them.
LORD ST. OSWALD
My Lords, the noble Lord is very noble; for there are a good many. However, to begin with, I ought to say that there are areas in which the Government can still retrieve the position, or even make an ad vance over new ground. It has been pro.)osed that a European Institute of Science and Technology might be set up by O.E.C.D., probably at Maastricht in Holland. France has not yet agreed to support this although I understand that we, together with the Dutch and some other European countries, have given support to the idea. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, dealt with certain moves towards this and I found what he said reassuring and encouraging as far as he was able to go. I am not minded to press him further unless he feels that by enlarging on what he said about three and a half hours ago with reference, for instance, to an enlarged Aierain Committee he can give me and others further encouragement.
My Lords, the Government can. of course, give encouragement to private firms to work together on a large scale. One of the three Continental models for this is the Agfa-Gevaert consortium mentioned fairly extensively in Mr. Christopher Layton's book. These are the multi-based European industries. Can the Minister tell us what our Government are doing by way of encouraging private 555 industry in Britain to set up or join in consortia across the Channel?
I am not going to dwell at any great length on the Concorde. My noble friend Lord Trefgarne and others have done so. I pray that this great aircraft may achieve success, in spite of an early effort to kill it off shortly after the Government assumed power. I wish it success for a great range of reasons, the maximum of success; and will not grudge and will not withhold any congratulations which accrue to members of the Government, in particular (and I am happy that he is sitting in the Chamber) the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, and the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, who have been its enthusiastic champions. I went to see the two existing Concordes at Filton and Toulouse in their earlier days, and I was moved and heartened by the concept and its implementation. I was troubled by some of the lost or missing opportunities of closer and more immediate collaboration, but I believe that these shortcomings have since been overcome. Concorde is a reality in the air over France; it will soon be a reality in the air over England, and it is something from which we can all draw satisfaction and pride.
My Lords, there are other joint aircraft ventures on which the future may smile. In opening the debate my noble friend spoke of the Jaguar. He also spoke of the Anglo-French helicopters. He invited the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, to inform us on the progress or otherwise of the desired M.R.C.A.—the multi-role combat aircraft—and the European air-bus. With regard to the former many of us, I know, would like the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, when winding up the debate, to be more definite than he was in his opening speech about the lack (as we all hope) of substance in the report of the Dassault offer to the Germans as a substitute for M.R.C.A. To hear from the noble Lord. Lord Chalfont, as we did, that predictions about the R.A.F. receiving eventually the Mirage G were "premature" fell short of the denial which we should like to have. My Lords, my noble friend Lord Balerno, and other noble Lords, asked to what extent the Government are enthusiastic or hopeful regarding the proposed European Molecular Biology Organisation, and this may be one of the 556 matters on which the noble Lord will be ready to expound. It was also mentioned a minute or two ago by my noble friend Lord Ironside.
There are four major, thrusting projects in which the Continental countries of Europe counted on our co-operation and even leadership. All have 'been mentioned in this debate, some more extensively than others. But in case the mnemonics have disconnected themselves from the organisations in the minds of some of your Lordships, I will name them briefly now. There is ELDO, the European Launcher Development Organisation; ESRO, the European Space Research Organisation CETS the Conseil Européen des Télécommunications par Satellite and CERN, the Conseil Européen de Récherche Nucléaire. My Lords, the British attitude to all of these is a theme for sadness, a theme of forfeited opportunity and faith destroyed, or at least disrupted.
ELDO and ESRO seem to me the saddest and, in a sense, the most significant of these. The purpose of ELDO was, and remains, to enable Europe to play an independent part in space. The agreement was signed in 1962 and entered into force on March 2, 1964. A change of Government took place in Britain in October of that year. Within 18 months, at the beginning of June. 1966, the new Government had indicated the possibility of Britain's withdrawal from ELDO, but for the time being they decided to remain. Since then, last year, however. a decision has been made to pull out by 1971. I do not know whether the Government will say—I do not think they will—that there has been no irretrievable announcement about pulling out, but they have made clear that our partners cannot count on us beyond that date of 1971.
There has been a further piece of financial sleight of hand regarding the £17 million which the Government undertook to contribute during their remaining years of membership. An amount of £7 million is to be withdrawn—the Government will, I suppose, say "diverted" rather than "withdrawn", as this sum is to be transferred to a project which the Government prefer, that is. a programme of application satellites. I think I am right in saying that this programme does not yet exist, in that it is not yet embodied in a committee. There may be a working 557 party of some kind, and I have heard of a proposal for a Governmental conference during this month or next. Perhaps the noble Lord will say whether a date has been fixed for such a conference or what stage the project, or the embryo project, has reached. Will he also say, so far as he can, what degree of enthusiasm and support has been shown by our erstwhile partners in ELDO for an embryo to which we have arbitrarily decided to transfer £7 million which they had a right to expect as part of our residual contribution to ELDO?
The justifying of our withdrawing from ELDO could, it seems to many of us, hardly be called convincing. As I understand it. the argument is that because ELDO, with its reduced budget, could no longer have the same targets as the original ELDO, the new concept—I believe it is called Target Plan T.9—comprehends a different programme, a new programme, from which we arc therefore entitled to absent ourselves and to reduce and cease our contribution. As it was chiefly Britain who brought about this reduction in the budget and thereby the lowering of the target, there is something a little cynical in this line of argument. The noble Lord has said very frankly that he is ready to be more explicit on this issue, and I shall be grateful to him for that.
ESRO came into official being on March 21. 1964. It set itself a very clear programme: the tiring of fully-instrumented vertical sounding-rockets; the launching of two fully-instrumented satellites in near earth orbits; the launching of four eccentric orbit satellites and the launching, in the sixth year of the programme, of two fully-instrumented space probes or large satellites. with the eventual launching of several large astronomical satellites. That was undoubtedly an ambitious programme, but to most of the partners in EsRo it seemed realistic. So far as her contribution is concerned Britain has now set a 6 per cent. annual growth: a ceiling of 6 per cent. This is less than the other partners consider necessary. ESRO counts among its successes the 2,000th orbit of the satellite Aurorae, completed on February 22. Aurorae has now been in orbit for five months with all systems fully operational and collecting valuable scientific data. This is the programme, the success story, on which we have set a gross ceiling of 6 per cent. The other partners, therefore, have the option either 558 of cutting down the whole programme at Britain's behest, or compensating from their own resources for Britain's under-investment.
CERN came into being on September 29, 1954. As we have heard in this debate, although a partner, Britain has stood aloof from the major project, that of the 300 GeV giant accelerator. The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, mentioned other projects receiving better support from Britain, but he will none the less be aware of the disappointment caused by our self-exclusion from the most important project of all. My Lords, we are standing completely aside from CETS, the European Council for Television Satellites, a field in which I should have thought, and others indeed believe, that we should have a distinguished part to play.
All this adds up to a sorry impression of Britain in European eyes. In opening the debate my noble friend related something of his embarrassment in having to defend British reluctance or aloofness. I have had the same experience. It was said to me the other day by a friend of Britain within the Community that we are making it more and more difficult for such friends to defend us and to promote our entry. He told me that the only interpreted reason for this conduct was that we wished to retain as many technological "chips" in our hands as possible with which to buy our place at the European table. Some of them are very high value "chips" indeed, but the nations of urope are not playing roulette. What they wish to see from Britain is European behaviour, as an earnest of our realistic intention and good faith.
The noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has made a great deal, as he had to, of the touchstone of cost effectiveness. He explained during the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, that he was referring specifically to the ELDO project. It is only fair, I think, to say that until that moment my noble friend Lord Bessborough and I, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and perhaps other noble Lords, had the impression that he was making this explanation of our technological reluctance, across the board. So it is right to emphasise that we are alone or almost 559 alone, in that particular partnership. in thinking the project not worth continuing.
One way of looking at science and technology is as part of the great campaign, generally a bloodless and productive campaign, of humanity against the unknown. That unknown can be microscopic or infinite, visible or invisible, tangible or intangible, audible or inaudible. Whatever its form, it is a proper challenge to the human spirit and intellect. It is worthy of doughty campaigners. In that campaign Britain must belong in the front line. It is depressing to observe that on many fronts we have fallen back among the camp followers. If the noble Lord in winding up can give examples of where we are advancing to our rightful place in the order of battle, he will raise the morale of everyone in this Chamber and of many outside its walls and beyond the coasts of our country.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord why we were not in the front line twenty years ago, when we could have been?
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am in somewhat of a difficulty, because if I were to answer in my winding up speech all the questions put to me we should be here for a very long time and we have another item of business coming this evening. What I propose to do, with the indulgence of the House, is to wind up very briefly, covering a few general points and going very lightly over the major projects that have been mentioned. If any noble Lord feels that any question of his has to be answered, he has two remedies. If he feels that he can contain himself this evening, he can write to me and I guarantee to give him a full answer to his question. If he feels that he really must have an answer now, of course I will give way on any point. I hope this will meet with the approval of your Lordships, because I have already made one long speech this evening.
Perhaps I should begin by saying that I hope the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, 560 does not think that I am over-sensitive about his animadversions and strictures upon me and my performances. On the contrary, I enjoy a little invective, as he obviously does. I know that it is all in the best possible spirit. Incidentally. I congratulate him on his impeccable pronunciation.
§ LORD CHALFONT
Well, interesting, if not impeccable. I should like to repair an omission in my earlier speech, because I think that some noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, felt that I had not sufficiently dealt with the central subject, by saying that of course I go a good deal of the way with the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in the case which he made for having some way of discovering and identifying common purposes in technology just as we hope to find ways of discovering common purposes in political matters, foreign policy and defence. As he and other noble Lords have rightly suggested, the Monnet Action Committee for a United States of Europe is an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas of this kind. As we know, this is a non-official forum. It does not commit or represent Governments, simply Parties. But, as the noble Lord pointed out, part of our representation on it includes a member of Her Majesty's Government, and I see no reason why the ideas which we have on this subject of some kind of machinery for identifying and solving problems should not be put forward in that forum and I can assure him that I am confident that they will be.
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I come to a whole range of problems that have been raised to-night. I think that I should answer on the spot the specific question put by the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, because he was asking for information. And I am fortunate enough to have the information. He asked whether British firms were taking part in the European Industrial Research Management Association. I can tell him that they are taking part and that those taking part so far are Lucas, British Oxygen, Distillers, Guest Keen, Parsons, Piikington, Rolls Royce, Tube Investment 561 and Vickers—a fairly resounding roll call, I think he will agree.
In regard to the European Technological Institute, the Giscard d'Estaing proposal, I propose to say no more unless I am pressed, than that we are going along with it. The proposal for a European technological centre which the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, rightly said was a better name for the Prime Minister's proposal than the other, remains on the table, and if anyone wishes to take it up we shall he interested to discuss it with them. We have heard a good deal about the European Molecular Biology Conference, and there has been a certain amount of talk about the laboratory project within this general organisation. I can only say that the idea of setting up a European laboratory, which came in for a certain amount of criticism this evening, is under expert study and I think that it would be wrong for me to make any kind of comment on that until the study is completed. We cannot know what our attitude will be until the experts have had their say.
The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, asked about the multi-role combat aircraft. I am sorry that I cannot add to this but I can tell him that within the next two months, give or take a week, there will be a decision on the project definition stage of this aircraft. The air-bus was another question which came in for a good deal of attention and here, unless pressed, I should like to confine myself to answering the specific question put by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, who asked what was the cost of the A.300B and whether Her Majesty's Government would be financing it. I can tell him that the firms which I mentioned in my opening speech, who produced the proposals for the A.300B, estimate the cost, at January, 1968, prices, at somewhat over £170 million but, of course, this is an estimate which could escalate, as everybody knows. There is no Government commitment to expenditure on this project and indeed, as I said earlier, we have not given a view on this estimate.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, could the noble Lord say how much money Hawker Siddeley have now been involved with, as they have been continuing this development for three or four months?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, the general position about the A.300B is that we took part in the first stage of this airbus project with the Germans and French. I cannot give the noble Earl details at this moment about the actual financial commitment here, but the firms withdrew their proposals for the A.300B in December, as the noble Earl already knows, and put forward these proposals for a smaller aircraft with an RB.211 engine, costing about £170 million. These are being studied in detail with the French and the Germans. I can only say that our criterion here—this seems to have worried people in other contexts but I really must insist here upon our criterion—is that this project should be commercially viable, and we shall study the proposals in this light. I am sorry that at the moment I cannot give any more detailed information than that.
§ LORD TREFGARNE
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again, but this is a rather important point. Can he say whether the sum of £170 million he has mentioned—which I take it is the total contribution from all three possible participants—includes the development that may be necessary for the RB.211 engines?
§ LORD CHALFONT
My Lords, I am afraid I cannot give that information to the noble Lord, but I will write to him and let him know. Obviously, it must be available; it is just that I have not got it at the moment.
I think it would be wise now to come on to the ELDO project, and to do so quite briefly. I think I have said all that I want to say about this matter. I could go through the history of it, and give long explanations of why we declined to go ahead with the additional expenditure, but all I feel bound to say at the moment is that there was no sinister political implication in this. We felt that this continual escalation in costs, which rose to something like £224 million in 1968, from the original cost of £70 million, which is an escalation of considerable proportions, was Teaching a stage where it would be quite wrong for any responsible Government, having to take great care about the allocation of their resources, to go on with the proposals that our Allies were putting. I hope that I shall not be pressed further 563 on this point. As I say, I could go into a great deal of chapter and verse, but it would take a long time.
My Lords, on the question of Concorde, the other important point that has been made, like everyone else in your Lordships' House I hope that the success of this project will in the end be achieved. I cannot give any categorical assurances about anything to do with this programme, because we do not know yet exactly how it is going to turn out. Concorde has, of course, proved itself with flight testing, and I think everyone is delighted that it has. B.O.A.C. hope to have the second prototype flying in about April or May, and I see no reason why it should not go on from then.
Unless any noble Lord feels that I have missed something that I should deal with now I should like to wind up these brief remarks simply by going back to the general points which have been made by many noble Lords, and perhaps most cogently by the noble Lords, Lord Jackson of Burnley and Lord Ritchie-Calder: that is the need to apply wider criteria to this whole business of technology and technological collaboration than simply the immediate narrow criteria of cost effectiveness. I agree with this entirely. I agree especially with the argument of the gap that has developed between the rich and the poor countries of the world, a gap that is growing and not getting narrower: the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. Unless we are prepared as an industrial developed country to do something about this, we shall be faced with a confrontation of a kind that will make the cold war of the last 25 years look very much like a children's party.
I think that, in this particular context, which I regard as being possibly the most important psychological political problem that we have to face in the last half of this century, Europe can play its part; and this is a part that we, the British Government, want Europe to play. This is not to be a rich man's club; it is not to be a collection of rich white nations all intent upon the importance of their own material prosperity: if it were, then I, for one, would not want any part of it. This must be a Continent which will improve its own prosperity, improve its own 564 security, and improve its own political influence: one which will then make that political influence felt around the world in solving the great problems of hunger, race and population, and this terrible and growing gulf between the rich and poor.
As the noble Lords, Lord Jackson and Lord Ritchie-Calder, have wisely said, cost effectiveness is all right, but only if with it goes statesmanship and a proper appreciation of the needs of humanity. I believe that your Lordships may be confident that Her Majesty's Government will have those factors in mind whenever we consider this or any other international problem. We must assess the right priorities for the allocation of our resources, some of which arc scarce. But I believe that your Lordships can be confident that, in doing so, we shall have at heart not only the wider interests of our people, but those of the people of the rest of the world.
§ 7.44 p.m.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this, to me, fascinating debate, but I should like particularly to thank the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, and my noble friend Lord St. Oswald for their excellent winding-up speeches. It seems to me that there has been some general agreement about the importance of European consortia, bilateral or multi-national, at the industrial level as between firms with a minimum of Government interference. The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, was particularly strong on this, but so were the noble Lords, Lord Kings Norton and Lord Balerno, among others. In my view this approach should certainly take priority over dealing with these problems through formal governmental organisations, although I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has been able to tell us that there is a chance of our becoming members of the R and D Committee of the Six, the Mareéchal or Aigrain Group. Again, I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Jackson of Burnley, stressed urban research in development, and those less exotic and expensive fields such as pollution, to which I personally attach great importance. I fully agree with all that the noble Lord said about this matter.
565 We must, my Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, has said, work out European priorities. We do not quite know how this is going to be done, but it must be done through some group or in some way. And these priorities must be worked out often, but not always, on a cost effective basis. There was general agreement, I think, on the importance of single management control. All speakers have made important and distinctive contributions. I am sorry that I cannot mention them all, but I must now leave the floor to the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, and withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.