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Civil Aircraft Projects

Volume 927: debated on Monday 7 March 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry which civil aircraft projects, including aeroengines, are receiving financial assistance; and what is the amount of assistance project by project.

Total financial assistance given up to 31 March 1976 on projects currently receiving support was £7·1 million on the HS146; £522 million on the RB211; £471 million on Concorde; £245 million on the Olympus engine, and £62 million on capital assistance agreements and on work in Government establishments associated with Concorde. This expenditure was offset by receipts of £297·5 million on the RB211 and £84 million on the Concorde project as a whole.

While I am grateful to the Minister for giving those details, can he say how seriously the Government are pursuing the HS146 project and whether they really see it becoming a civil airliner? If not, what other projects with Europe or our American colleagues have they in mind?

Our seriousness about the HS146 is emphasised by the fact that we rescued that project after Hawker Siddeley had decided to abandon it unless the Government funded it 100 per cent. The latest proposals are being examined carefully. We shall make an announcement as soon as possible, but it will be for British Aerospace to make its recommendations on whether it wishes to go ahead with the HS146. We are pursuing all other possibilities for collaborative arrangements. I have had talks with Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, Lockheed and our French, German and Dutch partners. Every possibility that is available will be pursued to secure projects which will bring jobs to British workers.

Does the Minister agree that it is critically important for both the civil and military divisions of the British aerospace industry to maintain the highest level of design capability in this country? In this regard, is he satisfied that we shall maintain our design capability if the Government proceed with the purchase of the American airborne early-warning system?

Questions about the purchase of the American early-warning system are not for me but for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. However, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the maintenance of the design capability is absolutely essential for the British aircraft industry that we are determined to retain and enhance.