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Civil Airframe Industry

Volume 940: debated on Monday 28 November 1977

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15.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on the Government's plans for the civil airframe industry.

It is for the British Aerospace Corporation to formulate plans for the industry and to put proposals to the Government. I know that the Corporation is actively examining all the possible civil aircraft options.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the already demoralised civil aircraft industry in this country was appalled by the speech of Ross Stainton, the deputy-chairman of British Airways, about the Trident replacement, which should be supplied by this country and by our industry? Will my hon. Friend ensure that there is not only an immediate go-ahead for the HS 146 but that British Airways is told firmly that it must fly The flag as well?

The question of the aircraft programme of British Airways is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. The Government are anxious that wherever possible British airlines should buy British.

Why does the Minister think that the head of the nationalised British Airways made it plain that he has to go to the capitalist American industry rather than the nationalised British manufacturing industry to buy the aeroplanes that he needs? Does the Minister think that he might have spent his time better if, instead of going in for what he called the advance of Socialism by nationalisation, he had got on with helping the industry, with Europe or America, to produce an aircraft that the industry needs?

One of the reasons why Mr. Stainton might have thought it necessary to make those remarks was that during the period 1970–74 the private British aircraft industry introduced no new products. The Government have retained the option on the HS146 and the British Aerospace Corporation will be making recommendations at about the end of the year. We have ensured that the production of the BAC 111 goes ahead, whereas it would have been stopped if private industry had had its way.

What discussions has my hon. Friend had with representatives from Chadderton and Woodford about the 748 and the Coaster-guarder?

I have had discussions with representatives in the Manchester area. I am in frequent contact with workers' representatives in the industry.

I accept that it would be preferable if British Airways were to re-equip with British aircraft, but does the Minister agree that his own Government's programme foreshadowed the introduction of legislation on noise levels that cannot be reached by any aircraft at present in production?

The hon. Gentleman should discuss noise levels with his hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), who is always saying in the House that noise levels are too high. We have encouraged production of British aircraft for the world market. The fact that Concorde during its visit to New York earlier this month passed the noise test shows that we can succeed in these matters.

Is my hon. Friend aware that my constituents and the shop stewards in the industry have been in touch with his Department about this matter? Does he agree that there is a need to concentrate on subsonic aircraft? I hope that we shall not have to wait too long before the Secretary of State makes his announcement, because of the pressure on the work force and future employment in the industry. The situation must be rectified quickly.

I met representatives from Filton and Patchway a week ago and I gave them the Government's view that we must be clear about the possible options on subsonics, because that is the quickest way of getting the work into our industry.