HL Deb 11 April 1988 vol 495 cc913-4

2.53 p.m.

The Earl of Kinnoull asked Her Majesty's Government:

What support they are giving to the major aerospace equipment companies involved in the Airbus A330/340 programmes, and how this compares with the French and German contributions.

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, Her Majesty's Government support the efforts of UK manufacturers to gain work on these important programmes. We have agreed to provide £450 million of launch aid to British Aerospace. The Government are not persuaded that further financial support should be provided to equipment companies. I understand that the French and German governments may make some financial support available to equipment companies.

The Earl of Kinnoull

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I recognise the support that the Government have given to British Aerospace in this vital European Airbus project. Is my noble friend aware that Germany is reported to have given £70 million directly to equipment companies? Does he agree that it is very important that we support the equipment companies to make certain that their technology and skilled staff do not lose out?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, the Government recognise the importance to the economy of the equipment sector. That goes without saying. I cannot comment on my noble friend's remark concerning the level of aid given to the equipment sector in Germany. Apparently the German Government do not publish those figures. Perhaps I should point out that equipment companies in the United Kingdom may be eligible to apply for other forms of DTI support under the enterprise initiative and are free to negotiate with British Aerospace for contributions towards their investment costs.

Lord Bruce-Gardyne

My Lords, can my noble friend tell us what proportion of the £250 million of launch aid for the A320 has so far been spent on orders in Taiwan and elsewhere on the Pacific rim, in the United States or in Canada? Can he also say what proportion of the £450 million for the A330 and A340 is likely to go in the same direction? Was that the Government's original intention?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, my noble friend raises two very interesting points, but I am afraid they are somewhat outside the scope of the Question on the Order Paper. If he would like to put down a Question on those points I should be pleased to answer it.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, in the light of the Minister's reply to the last supplementary question, can we be assured that the Government have still complete confidence in, and support, Airbus Industrie? In the light of recent criticism by the chairman of British Aerospace can we be assured that the Government will be associated with any approach to Airbus Industrie in connection with those criticisms, in view of their £450 million launch aid?

Lord Beaverbrook

My Lords, I can confirm that government support for the Airbus programme is not in question. Your Lordships may be aware that a report prepared recently on Airbus is being reviewed by Ministers at the present time.