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Aircraft Industry

Volume 655: debated on Monday 5 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Aviation what improvements he intends to make in the present system of planning national aviation objectives to enable the British aircraft industry to design, develop and produce on a substantially more long-term basis than at present.

All planning is on a long-term basis, and not least in the aircraft industry. Its principal objectives are to meet defence requirements and to sell aircraft, engines and equipment, particularly overseas. I am discussing with the industry ways in which planning methods, industrial as well as Governmental, might be improved.

I am glad to hear that the Minister is giving this matter some attention. Is he not aware that the United States Government, through the Operation Horizon report, and the French Government, through the Commissariat des Plans, have given a lot of useful and long-term guidance to their aircraft industries? Would it not be helpful if the Government adopted the same policy?

Guidance is very useful, but orders are what they really want in the aircraft industry. It is not Project Horizon that really helps the American aircraft industry, but the fact that massive defence orders are put in the way of manufacturers. We had earlier than Project Horizon a policy which was set up by my predecessor rather on the same lines, and this is still the policy that we pursue.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the aircraft industry today is a very valuable earner of foreign currency, and that if we are to retain that position it must be on the basis that manufacturers of aircraft must be given every opportunity for long-term development?

Yes, Sir. I would agree that the aircraft industry is an extremely valuable asset, and it was with that thought in mind that the British Government devised the policy which they have and which has been fully explained on numerous occasions and are giving support to it.

Unlike a number of other industries, much of the cost of this industry falls on public funds, and is that not all the more reason for the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) about long-term policy being applied through Government sources rather than leaving it to the industry?

There is much to be said for long-term planning whether public or private money is involved.