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Messrs Short Brothers And Harland

Volume 728: debated on Thursday 12 May 1966

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asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress the Government have made with their plans for diversification of the activities of Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Matthew Slattery, who was already acting for the company in a consultative capacity, and Mr. Derek Palmar, one of my right hon. Friend's industrial advisers, were invited in March to conduct the necessary negotiations. They are currently examining a number of possible propositions and progress is being made.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the seriousness and urgency of this problem as a result of the Answer to Questions given by the Minister of Aviation yesterday? In view of the many pledges given by the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary, the Minister of Aviation and the First Secretary, will he expedite matters, because the need for it must have been obvious, for over two years, since a decision to sell out to the cheaper aircraft industry of America?

We fully appreciate the urgency of this, and we are pressing ahead as fast as we can. We very much hope that there will be a successful outcome to the negotiations which are now proceeding.

Have discussions gone so far as to enable my hon. Friend to give some assurance that the numbers at present employed in these works will continue, at least for a few years?

It would be a mistake today to say anything which would anticipate the possible outcome of the work which the negotiators are doing.

Why were these appointments not announced in the House, despite a considerable number of Questions by myself and my hon. Friends in March?

We have certainly taken no steps to conceal the appointments. Our anxiety was simply to get on with the job as fast as possible and obtain the sort of results which I am sure the hon. Member wants?