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Aircraft Industry (Machine Tools)

Volume 523: debated on Monday 1 February 1954

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31.

asked the Minister of Supply what steps he is taking to ensure the provision of large forging presses and the development of suitable machine tools for the aircraft industry.

The Ministry of Supply is constantly in touch with the aircraft constructors with regard to new production methods and the development of new plant. In view of the very high cost of these large forging presses, the possibility of Government assistance is being considered.

Has the Minister seen the report of the conference on aircraft production organised by the Institute of Production Engineers, at Southampton, and the remarks of Mr. Woodley, of Vickers Armstrong, about the inadequacy of the present arrangements for the development of machine tools for the aircraft industry? If so, will he consider using some of the vacant space at Woolwich Arsenal for their development instead of placing contracts with private industry?

I think that the last part of that question goes a little wide of the original Question. In general, I am well aware of the importance of these larger plants for production, but, on the other hand, we must bear in mind these heavy forging presses and ancilliary equipment cost about £10 million. We have also to consider other methods of achieving the same results; if we do not we are liable to get our fingers burned quite badly.

:Is the Minister not aware that practically the whole of the research and development by the aircraft industry is carried out on Government account? Is it not hard that the Government should also have to subsidise research and development for the manufacture of the machine tools which are to produce the aircraft?