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Aviation Industry

Volume 888: debated on Tuesday 11 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from workers and management in the aviation industry with regard to the effects of the proposed defence cuts.

We have received a number of representations aimed at clarifying, and in some cases modifying, the effects of the proposed defence review measures on individual companies. I have also received a deputation of workers from Hawker Siddeley Aviation.

When my hon. Friend was carrying out his welcome and necessary defence review, did he regard part of his responsibility to lessen as much as possible the impact on jobs in the aviation industry? If he did, will he consider setting back the delivery dates of some of the aircraft ordered from Hawker Siddeley Aviation by his Department so that a more even level of employment may be maintained in the industry? Further, will he consider discussing with his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry the possibility of reconsidering the position of the HS146? That would provide a welcome job extension for the men who are affected by possible redundancies due to the defence review.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will bear in mind my hon. Friend's later remarks. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is fully aware of the views that have been expressed in the House about the HS146. As regards my hon. Friend's earlier remarks— yes, at all stages of the defence review my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has had in mind the likely employment impact of the savings which he has sought to achieve. I must say again what I have said before, namely, that it is not possible to achieve the sort of savings that we have chosen to make, and about which we have been pressed, without there being some painful consequences in employment terms. We shall do all that we can to soften them, but I cannot give an undertaking that despite the consultations we shall maintain an aircraft programme which is unrelated to needs as we see them.

In view of the growing number of unemployed in Northern Ireland, will the Minister make an effort to save the jobs of 200 people at RAF Sydenham who will be made redundant before the end of this year? Will the Minister ensure that the Buccaneer contract, which was filched from RAF Sydenham and given, as I understand it, to St. Athan, in the constituency of the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force, will be returned to RAF Sydenham to protect employment at that base?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish the House to misunderstand the implications of his remarks. However, I have taken note of what he said, and so has my right hon. Friend.

Does my hon. Friend agree that at the end of the war much larger numbers of men engaged in the munitions industry were successfully redeployed? Is there any reason for our not being able successfully to redeploy these men when so many products could be made which could be usefully disposed of on both the export market and the domestic market?

Historical parallels are always very difficult to sustain. I am not convinced that the parallel which my hon. Friend draws is valid. Of course, Ministers have been concerned all the time that those who might lose their job opportunities as a result of the defence review will find other useful things to do. For that reason we are consulting my right lion. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry.

Will the Minister confirm that the representations he has received from the shop floor have been very strong and that they have focused on the danger of loss of defence sales overseas which may follow if projects on order for our Services are cut? Do the calculations of likely redundancies include the redundancies that must flow if these defence orders do not materialise?

It is true that the representations have been very strong. It is not true that they have been principally concerned with export orders. It is true that if we were to lose export orders there would be consequences for employment.