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Rb211–524 Engine

Volume 893: debated on Monday 9 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he will be in a position to announce further funding for the RB211–524 engine to be jointly developed by Boeing and Rolls Royce (1971) Limited; and if he will make a statement.

The Rolls-Royce RB211–524 aero-engine is fully committed for use in the Lockheed TriStar. Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd. has recently put forward fresh proposals for the use of the engine in the Boeing 747. These are being urgently considered and I hope to make a statement very soon.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the formal Boeing deadline for co-operation in this programme runs out tomorrow? Can he assure us that the programme will not lapse through a too ready insistence by the Government on the two-order guarantee, and certainly that Rolls-Royce will not be asked to go along with this project for a few more weeks purely with its own money?

When will my right hon. Friend persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet that this is a most important project, not just for jobs but for the future of British technology in breaking into this great new market?

I appreciate the concern of my hon. Friend, of others in Derby, and of other Rolls-Royce workers who know how important it is that other applications for the engine should be developed. I am in very close touch with Boeing. I hope that we shall find time to complete these discussions. I am sure that the Cabinet and my colleagues are all well aware of the importance of this engine. I must tell the House that at any time the placing of any further order for the Boeing with that engine would, of itself, trigger off full development.

Is it true that the Minister has approved this loan but that it is awaiting Cabinet sanction because the Prime Minister has taken away from the Minister his executive powers to grant loans without Cabinet approval?

The hon. Gentleman must know very little about government if he thinks that any single Cabinet Minister would be in a position, without explicit Cabinet approval, to authorise the expenditure of sums of money running into tens of millions of pounds.

May I impress upon my right hon. Friend the importance of this development? Not only will it have a tremendous effect on the Rolls-Royce areas which are producing the engine; it will have a spin-off effect in my constituency, where there are Rolls-Royce factories in East Kilbride and in Blantyre?

Yes, I accept that. When it was originally decided to go forward with the RB211 the previous Government endorsed that decision in their arrangements, and we decided to authorise the engine with the TriStar—so successive Governments have shown that they are aware of the wide range of applications for this engine. It so happens that it is difficult that it should be happening at this time and that we should have to reach this decision when airline orders are a bit sluggish.

I understood the Secretary of State to say that Rolls-Royce recently put forward proposals. Is he aware that these proposals have been before his Department for over 18 months and that Rolls-Royce needs a decision? The lack of decision is costing Rolls-Royce and Boeing money. Will the right hon. Gentleman attend to the matter and look after the jobs of the workers who are waiting for the engines and the customers who want it?

The hon. Gentleman is unfortunately misinformed. Rolls-Royce made its proposals on 21st April. It made substantial amendments. It provided figures on which my Department could start independent calculations on 8th May, and the revised brochure putting forward its proposals was received on 16th May. The hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, been quite accidentally but wholly misinformed about this business.