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Volume 115: debated on Wednesday 29 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he is yet able to announce his decision on the launch-aid applications by British Aerospace plc in respect of the A330 and A340 Airbuses.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on Government support for Airbus.

Discussions with British Aerospace about its combined application for launch aid in respect of the Airbus A330 and A340 projects are continuing. We aim to reach a decision as soon as possible and an announcement to the House will be made thereafter.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Can he say how long he expects discussions to continue before an announcement is made? Can he also confirm the Government's support in principle for extensions to the Airbus range and assistance with funding?

First, I wish to recognise the considerable role that my hon. Friend has played on behalf of his constituents, who have British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce interests. The House will appreciate that the first decision that had to be taken was whether the Government believed that this project was worthy of support. That decision has been taken and we are now discussing with British Aerospace the precise level and amount of that support in a constructive and harmonious atmosphere. I am confident that we shall be able to reach agreement in the quite near future.

I am glad that the Government have finally realised the importance of such a project. Does the Minister realise that delay means a loss of orders? The longer the delay, the more orders may be lost. Has he any idea what orders have been lost up to the present?

There is no question of orders being lost at present, because the aircraft concerned in the question have not yet been formally launched. That decision has not been finally taken by the Airbus consortium. What is in issue here is the level of support that will be necessary to maintain the involvement of British Aerospace in a consortium which the Government believe is very important to the health and wellbeing of the aerospace industry, not only in the United Kingdom, but in Europe.