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asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the interdepartmental machinery for the financial control and forward estimating of the Government-sponsored aircraft production programme, and with the techniques applied for monitoring individual projects; and if he will make a statement.
In the defence field the Government have already thoroughly overhauled the procedures for forward estimating on new projects. Experience may well show that further improvements in the interdepartmental machinery and in the technique of monitoring are necessary. As the House is aware, the Estimates Committee, in its recently published Second Report, has made a number of recommendations concerning transport aircraft. The Government is examining these recommendations carefully and a reply will be made in due course.
Bearing in mind that the Estimates Committee's Report indicates that the Minister of Aviation has entered into contracts on unfavourable terms with the British aircraft manufacturers and the French Government without proper Treasury participation, is it not urgent that the Prime Minister should look into this matter and improve Treasury co-ordination, particularly bearing in mind that £240 million has been spent by the Ministry of Aviation on aircraft projects which have been cancelled?
As the hon. Member knows, the Public Accounts Committee reviewed the changes in procedure in 1961–62, and in paragraph 53 of its Report it recognised that some time must necessarily elapse before it is possible to judge the extent of the improvements achieved. I am perfectly willing to make any improvements which seem to me to be necessary and to examine this matter.
I was asked whether any improvements could be made and I said that I was always willing to consider improvements. I take it that that was a sensible thing to say.