HL Deb 04 August 1971 vol 323 cc1174-7

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if, in reply to the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, I now repeat a Statement which is being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for Aerospace. The Statement is as follows:

" In my Statement to the House on May 10 about the RB.211 (Hansard cols. 32–3) I reported that the U.S. Administration were seeking authority from the U.S. Congress to guarantee up to 250 million dollars of additional credits for Lockheed. The House will recall that, because of the heavy commitment which we were prepared to undertake on the engine, we wished to be satisfied that the aircraft project itself could be completed. The United States Congress has passed legislation which would permit the granting of U.S. Government guarantees on further loans to Lockheed. I am awaiting notification from the U.S. Administration that it is prepared to give guarantees for the benefit of Lockheed in an amount of up to 250 million dollars, which amount the U.S. Administration considers sufficient to carry out the TriStar project. I am also awaiting from Lockheed confirmation of the orders for the aircraft from existing airline customers.

" Provided the notification is received as expected from the U.S. Administration and from Lockheed, I am happy to say that the RB.211 programme will proceed and that some 30,000 or more workers at Rolls-Royce and in the company's supplier firms can now expect to continue work on this major engine programme. This has been a major consideration in our deliberations on the subject, and I hope this will relieve some of the anxieties of those involved whether as employees, Rolls-Royce suppliers or trade creditors.

" Many of those who have in the last few months suffered serious anxiety have at the same time had to exert very great efforts to keep alive the prospect of a solution. I wish to record my appreciation of those efforts.

" Rolls-Royce will still have work to do in developing the engines for the TriStar. But we shall all be set on a course aimed at completing the project. We hope that the aircraft will enter into service with many world airlines who will recognise its merits, and the House will, I am sure, wish the project every success."

My Lords, that is the end of the Statement.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord for repeating that Statement, and I am sure that I shall be speaking for noble Lords in all parts of the House when I say that we are intensely relieved that this one element of uncertainty surrounding the remarkable engine, the RB.211, will now, as a result of Congressional action, be removed, and that the possibilities of continued employment are greatly improved. I agree, too, that we all hope that as these engines get into service in the American aircraft much of the damage which has been caused in the American market by the initial impetuous action on the part of Her Majesty's Government will be remedied. I think it is fair and proper to add that this opportunity to recover lost ground was made possible by the personal efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

Lastly, may I ask the noble Lord how much money has been put into the Rolls-Royce company by Her Majesty's Government since the Receiver took over, to keep the RB.211 programme going; and on what terms exactly that money was advanced?


My Lords, from these Benches we too should like to thank the Minister for repeating this Statement and to express our relief at what has taken place. I would also echo what the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, has said about the role played by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. I should like to draw attention particularly to the final paragraph of the Statement and to ask whether the Minister would not agree that the time has come when Rolls-Royce and the Government and B.E.A. should be asked to get together to evaluate the whole project in the light of the national interest?


My Lords, may I, on behalf of noble Lords on the Back Benches, express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for the very great work he has done in bringing this project to a successful conclusion? We know how hard he has worked for it, and it is important to this country that we should have the great prestige of Rolls-Royce, who have achieved a magnificent job by introducing this wonderful engine.


My Lords, I am grateful for the reception which has been given to this Statement. We all share the relief that it now seems possible to go on with this project, and I join in the good wishes for its success. I would also thank noble Lords for the appreciation they have shown of the efforts made by my noble friend the Minister of Defence. I am sure we all join in that.

The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, asked how much money had been put into the development of the RB.211 engine since the Receiver was put in on February 4. I am informed that some £30 million has been put in, in accordance with interim agreements made between the Government, and the Receiver and Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited, and in the normal way this amount would be recovered out of the proceeds from sales. In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Amherst, who asked for an evaluation, I can tell him that a general review is being made. I am not quite certain what he meant by an"evaluation ". B.E.A. will be free to do this for themselves, and it is not intended in any way to fetter B.E.A.'s choice of a successor aircraft.