Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Vote a. Number for Air Force Service

Part of Orders of the Day — Air Estimates, 1962–63 – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12th March 1962.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton 12:00 am, 12th March 1962

With respect, Mr. Blackburn, a very large element of the total revenue of the aircraft industry is the £143 million appearing in Vote 7 in the Estimates which we are debating.

I was hoping that it would not be considered out of order to mention this because the manner in which this £143 million is spent can be one of a number of things. It can give the Royal Air Force the aircraft it wants. It can promote exports of British aircraft abroad. H can promote the N.A.T.O. use of British-made military aircraft as well as the R.A.F. use. It can tone down pockets of unemployment. What I think extremely unlikely is that it can do all four of those things at the same time. That is why I think it extremely important that we should draw up our order of priorities.

If we consider the item which one could broadly call assistance to exports, we have to ask ourselves the question which I had reached when you intervened, Mr. Blackburn. Can British domestic civil and military demand, and foreign civil and military demand ever provide enough work for even the two major combines into which the British aircraft industry has drawn today? If we say "Yes there is a large enough market", we have to ask ourselves: what is the total amount of money which these firms must have under Vote 7 in order to allow them to remain in this competitive position? If we have not got that figure we cannot decide whether we can afford to allow them to have that amount of money.

I therefore think that this is a fair question to ask. If we decide that the answer is, "No, there is not enough work, looking into the foreseeable future "—ten years ahead—for two large combines, we must decide which we are to support. If we endeavour to support both of them with an inadequate amount of money we shall achieve no value for the money except to protract the agony of their dying.

Having arrived at 1962, a year in which civil business is declining immensely and where we are expecting to see the number of military aircraft also decline, it would not be out of place in this debate to consider what I have endeavoured to generate—the implications of military expenditure on the domestic aviation industry. I have confined myself to speaking about airframes, but, of course, the most outstanding characteristic of the industry from the point of view of exports over the last decade has not been aircraft, but aero-engines, of which the figures speak for themselves. Until I was elected to this House I was connected with a firm of aero-engine manufacturers.

Whether it is for civil or military aircraft is not the question, because all this money comes from the same Treasury, but, if the Government decide to back with public money a project which we hope will sell abroad in the aero-engines sphere, the Government are also left with two large groups. One of them has never sold to a single airline a single jet engine, and the other has met with outstanding success, which increased even in the last year over the preceding year; indeed, it has increased every year, which is unlike the situation in any other industry in the country of which I can think. I merely express the view that it is extremely unlikely that, if we back with public money something which no airline has even been prepared to back with its own private money in the purchase of a jet engine, we have taken the right decision.

I should like to repeat yet again the four criteria for placing orders which are encompassed by the £143 million in Vote 7, because they are of major importance. The first is to provide equipment which the R.A.F. wishes to have to meet its own operational requirements. The second is to compromise between the requirements of the R.A.F. and the military requirements of other Powers abroad, whether in the Commonwealth or in N.A.T.O. The third is to assist the manufacturer to export another product, not the one which the Government have ordered. The fourth is political or social reasons.

I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give us his observations on how public money can most profitably be spent, under Vote 7, in particular, with specific reference to those four criteria.