HC Deb 20 January 1986 vol 90 cc88-9W
Mr. Adley

asked the Prime Minister if she will take steps urgently to seek to improve relations between Her Majesty's Government and British Aerospace; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister

I refer my hon. Friend to the exchange of letters between Sir Raymond Lygo, chief executive of British Aerospace, and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry dated 17 January 1986, copies of which have been placed in the Library of the House.17th January, 1986 Dear Secretary of State, As we have stated publicly, British Aerospace regrets the controversy which has developed over what was said at the meeting held in your office on 8th January, 1986 and, of course, I totally share that view. We have not sought this situation, nor at any time has the Company or I sought to question your integrity. I understand that likewise you are not questioning my own integrity either personally or as the Chief Executive of British Aerospace. In the House of Commons yesterday, in answer to questions, the Prime Minister did not demur from the view that there must have been a misunderstanding of the remarks you made to me at the meeting. I understand that you have since expressed your assent to that general proposition. I welcome this. If, indeed, you said only that it was in the national interest that the present uncertainty over Westland's future be ended as soon as possible and not, as I previously understood you to say, that the continuing campaign on behalf of the European Consortium was against the national interest, I would accept that. I also accept that you at no time said that "British Aerospace should withdraw from the European Consortium", nor have I ever suggested that you used those words. However, in the course of our discussion of the possible risks to British Aerospace of the leading role we had recently adopted in support of the European Consortium—risks which we mutually recognised — we discussed the possibility of the Company reverting to the lower profile it had previously adopted in order to lessen those risks. I believe it may have been during this part of our conversation that an unfortunate misunderstanding arose and it may well be that you intended to infer that, in view of British Aerospace's wider interests, I personally should withdraw in the sense of lowering my profile as spokesman for the Consortium. I notice there are certain other discrepancies in our respective records of the meeting, but these appear relatively minor. I very much hope the matter can be left on this basis. I have shown this letter to my Chairman, Sir Austin Pearce, who fully approves its content. Yours sincerely Ray Lygo 17 January 1986 Dear Sir Raymond, Thank you for your letter of today's date. I am most grateful to you for writing. I believe the misunderstanding between us has now been cleared up. Certainly I do not question—and have never sought to question—your integrity, either personally or as Chief Executive of British Aerospace. Yours Sincerely, Leon Brittan

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