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Civil Aircraft Project

Volume 940: debated on Monday 28 November 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry if the British Aerospace Corporation has yet told him of any proposal to proceed with a new civil aircraft project or requested Government support for such a project.

British Aerospace is actively examining all the possible civil aircraft options.

How can British Airways buy British when the Minister has taken no decisions over the past three years to help the industry get any projects launched and now presides over the rundown of the nationalised aerospace industry?

The hon. Gentleman is characteristically inaccurate. The decision that I announced only last year, following that made by my right hon. Friend who is now Secretary of State for Energy, has made it possible for the HS146 project to be launched following a positive recommendation from British Aerospace, should that be forthcoming and acceptable to the Government.

Is not it damaging when British Airways announces that it will buy American? This does not help formulate any policy at all. Will my hon. Friend recommend to the Secretary of State for Trade that Ross Stainton be sacked for his remarks?

I do not think that a random dismissal is a necessary solution to this problem. We are extremely anxious that British Airways and all other airlines, including the privately owned airline by which I flew to Teesside only a few days ago on an American plane, should buy British. I would point out that Mr. Ross Stainton made his statement in New York after having flown there in the greatest plane ever produced by any aircraft industry in the world.

Could it be that Mr. Stainton really does not know that discussions are taking place between his company and British Aerospace? Is it not more likely that this is a ploy and that he is hoping to extract a subsidy from the Government in return for an instruction to buy British even though British Airways may do so anyway?

I myself have had frequent amicable conversations with Mr. Stainton. When Mr. Stainton reports back that he intends to buy British, I am sure that our conversations will be even more amicable.

Will the Minister of State indicate when the British aerospace industry is to make a favourable decision relating to the HS 146 and when this very fine aircraft, whose production could employ many people within the aerospace industry, is likely to start production?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman pays tribute to the Government's decision to keep the HS 146 project alive when private enterprise would have killed it off because we were not ready to fund it 100 per cent. British Aerospace is hoping to bring forward a recommendation around the end of the year and we shall consider that recommendation as soon as it is presented to us.