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Aircraft Production

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd January 1964.

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Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough 12:00 am, 23rd January 1964

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.

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.

Photo of Mr John Cronin Mr John Cronin , Loughborough

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?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.

Photo of Sir Godfrey Nicholson Sir Godfrey Nicholson , Farnham

My right hon. Friend has said that a reply will be sent to the Estimates Committee in due course. It would be of great service to the House if a reply could be sent very soon because I think that we should have an early debate on this matter.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Does not the Estimates Committee's Report reveal that there is a serious lack of Treasury control over the Concord project? Is it not a bit too late to consider these recommendations of the Estimates Committee since £85 million of public money has already been committed?

Photo of Sir Alec Douglas-Home Sir Alec Douglas-Home , Kinross and West Perthshire

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.