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Aircraft (Sales To America)

Volume 895: debated on Monday 7 July 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry what plans he has for increased British penetration of the American civil aircraft market.

The United States is our best customer for aerospace products, taking one-third of our aerospace exports in 1974, worth about £192 million. We shall continue ever effort to improve on this and consolidate our already strong position in the aero-engine and equipment fields.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend on the considerable Government support for the 524 engine and its penetration of the American market through the Boeing company? Is he aware that the McDonnel-Douglas company is the third major manufacturer expressing interest in this engine? Will the Government be prepared to consider sympathetically any request for a similar adaptation from this third manufacturer? Will my hon. Friend also say to everyone in my constituency, managements and unions alike, that taxpayers' money is involved and there are no additional resources for the kind of wage bargaining now going on at Rolls-Royce?

It is not for me to get involved in wage bargaining questions. On my hon. Friend's other question, this is one of the benefits of the wise public ownership of Rolls-Royce carried out by the Conservative Party.

In view of the Under-Secretary's new responsibilities, does he not agree that one of the main features of attempts to sell aircraft in the United States is the natural opposition and competition from the American aircraft manufacturing industry? If Europe is to succeed in penetrating this market and holding its own market, does he agree that all Ministers in European Governments must take positive steps towards a European aerospace policy, and will he make a specific point of setting his sights on this target?

By the vote of the British people last month, we are members of the EEC and we are always prepared to consider co-operation with our European allies. On the question of aerospace equipment to the United States, we had 37 per cent. of its import market last year compared with France's 7·5 per cent., Germany's 6·8 per cent. and Italy's 4 per cent. We are not doing too badly.

Does the Minister appreciate that penetration of the United States market and other markets has been greatly damaged by the uncertainty created by the Government's nationalisation proposals? What is happening to help aircraft companies in this uncertain situation, particularly with respect to performance guarantees on future contracts?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made perfectly clear what the interim position will be until the Bill is enacted, which will be as soon as possible. If the hon. Member thinks that the delay in achieving public ownership is causing uncertainty, if he would agree to the Bill going through the Second Reading procedure we could make it law this Session.