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INDUSTRIAL EXPANSION [MONEY] (No. 2)

Ways and Means – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1968.

Alert me about debates like this

Queen's Recommendation having been signified

Motion made, and Question proposed,That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise the provision of financial support for certain industrial projects, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Minister of Technology under arrangements for providing financial support for the production in the United Kingdom of the supersonic aircraft known as the Concorde, subject to the limitations—

  1. (i) that loans made by the Minister under such arrangements shall be repayable, and guarantees given by him thereunder in respect of money borrowed shall expire, not later than 30th June 1979; and
  2. (ii) that the aggregate of the following, namely the principal outstanding in respect of loans made by the Minister under such arrangements, the amount for which he is liable under guarantees of the repayment of principal given by him under such arrangements and any sums that have been paid by him pursuant to such guarantees of the repayment of principal and have not been repaid to him, shall at no time exceed £100 million or such greater amount not exceeding £125 million as may be provided by order.—[Mr. Harold Lever.]

11.40 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I had not thought to catch your eye at this early stage, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but you and I have seen sad accidents happen in this Chamber by which matters we had wished to discuss fully have not been so discussed, and perhaps by speaking now I shall enable my hon. Friends to explore the present subject at greater length.

I hope that you will guide me if I am wrong, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I believe we have but three-quarters of an hour to discuss this matter, despite the fact that we had unlimited time on the previous Order, which is to be followed by a Bill. I hope that in the limited time available to us we shall hear the Minister of Technology give more than just qualified approval for this great venture, for which we are now asked to approve the money involved. We have on previous occasions with some difficulty dragged statements from the right hon. Gentleman, and there have been some bitter exchanges across the Floor in the time that has been available. I have no wish at all to detain the House, but I hope that the Minister will be most forthcoming this evening.

I do not see in his place the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins), who has constantly sniped at this great national project; perhaps he has abandoned his campaign against it. I see present the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) who is, I know, a committed admirer of the project and will do everything he can to support it. I am glad to have his indication of agreement. My hon. Friends are most anxious that the project should succeed.

Since this is a money matter, the question of who shall provide the cash is bound to arise. We are asked to authorise the payment of substantial sums from the Exchequer, and the question of what other funds will be provided to accompany those Exchequer funds will no doubt be raised later. Had I been fortunate enough to have caught your eye somewhat later, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I might have been able to tangle with some of my hon. Friends on this matter.

Politics are very largely concerned with this project. This is a national—virtually a nationalised—undertaking, so we must not be too censorious in our view of the private undertakings which will be asked to put their money into it also. If the Government interfere in a commercial venture they must be expected to take a substantial risk. It is the nation which is taking the risk, and it is the nation which should be wholeheartedly behind this project, as I am, and as are those in my constituency who are working to make it a success.

I know that I speak for a large number of my hon. Friends in wishing the Concorde well. It was not without risk that the brothers Cabot sailed from Bristol to discover the New World. It was not without risk and tribulation that the great Brunel—so much concerned with Bristol, where the Concorde is being built—constructed great works of engineering which succeeded in the end, and which led the way to other successes.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not now be reticent in his support of this great project, and that on this occasion he really believes that we are on to a winner. I certainly believe that we are, and I hope that the Government will do everything they can to support the project.

11.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

I welcome this announcement. It concerns not only the many people in my constituency who work in the industry. It affects a large number of people all over the country. It has been variously estimated that about 250,000 people are engaged directly or indirectly with the aircraft industry and in making accessories and so forth. I have always believed that our aircraft industry has a great future and there is no doubt that the Concorde project marks an interesting technological approach at a very high level in which we can justifiably say that we lead the world.

The future of those engaged in the industry has been played about with by those who call themselves responsible commentators. Newspapers have run articles week by week varying from eulogistic praise to the depth of despair. Workers in Bristol have been needlessly concerned about their future because of rumours of impending cancellation which have been a weekly feature. Throughout the long discussions we have had arising from spurious talk in the Press and when the workers have come to see us, my hon. Friend has always made it clear that, when the project was advanced, the money would be made available. I am pleased that this pledge has been redeemed tonight.

Private enterprise has been equally keen to say that it believes in the future of the Concorde, but it is a sad commentary on private enterprise's confidence in the project that all it can find for it is up to £25 million. The private enterprise stake in this venture can only be up to one-fifth. That needs emphasising.

One of the criteria of private enterprise has always been, "We put up the money and take the risk, and if it pays off we make the profit also." We are in the strange situation where private enterprise is willing to put up only one-fifth of the money, although the project is still expected to justify this private enterprise. Where such huge sums of public money are concerned, we should follow the logic of the situation, and the aviation industry should be owned by the country as a whole. We are co-operating with the French in this project and no one has ever doubted that the French companies, which are owned by the State, have proved that they can do an efficient job.

Another matter which should not go unremarked is the statement on 26th February by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on equality of information as regards these huge sums. It is fair to say that the Conservatives have always said that they should always be the Government because they are business men who know all about business and how to run the country's affairs. There have been a number of scandals in the aircraft in- dustry. The Ferranti case immediately comes to mind. I do not want to prejudice any inquiry that is taking place now, but we know what is involved. Under the previous Administration vast sums of public money were made available to companies, but we were never allowed to see the books. I commend the Government for tackling the problem as vigorously as they have done. The important statement of 26th February lays down, for the first time, criteria which give me much greater confidence than I had in the spending of vast sums of public money.

This evening marks an important step forward in the future of the aircraft industry. It is important to many of my constituents who earn their livelihood in the industry. I have always said that it is necessary to ensure that the industry produces aircraft efficiently, cheaply and on time. We are making sure that the industry does this.

The Government are making fair progress in clearing up the mess left behind by the previous Administration. I think that that comment is justified when one studies the record. I commend this Money Resolution to the House, because I believe that those who have denigrated the project, and those who have written irresponsible articles in the Press, have been confounded. I believe that we can now go forward with this great enterprise. I know that there is a risk, but it is justified because of the importance of this venture to the economic life of this country.

11.52 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis), and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), have many constituents who are intimately concerned with the Concorde venture. It is therefore of special interest to them, and I think we understand that, but it is also a matter of substantial interest to every hon. Member who has constituents whose major rôle in this enterprise will be to help sign the cheques.

On that basis, even at this late hour, the House is entitled to ask one or two questions which arise on this Money Resolution, because it talks about loans. Why is the House being asked to sanction loans of this magnitude? Why, if this is a project of such proven commercial value, is there not a scramble on the part of the City, on the part of free enterprise, private institutions and the banks, to participate in it?

The hon. Member for Bristol, North-West referred to the denigration of this project in some publications. I hope he will excuse me from quoting any of those. I shall confine my quotation to a publication sent to me by the B.A.C. It was a reproduction of an article from Flight, and above the initials N.F.G.H., the article concluded: To set up production for three aircraft a month will require a net investment reaching a peak of £100 million during the early 1970s. The difficult question is where shall the money come from, and who will bear the risk—the Government or the firms? There is a depressing indication that those who are professional risk-bearers shrink from this project, notwithstanding all the eulogies that come from B.A.C. about Concorde, notwithstanding all the eulogies from hon. Members such as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol. West, and, in this instance, his colleague from Bristol, North-West. I am intrigued that Mr. Neil Harrison, the editor of Flight, in the same publication, which was sent to me by B.A.C. concluded: Without any doubt the Concorde has money-making potential in a wide range of circumstances. It is ironic that a little earlier he should have written: In planning this review Flight asked Air France, B.O.A.C. and Pan American if each would express opinions on the economic prospects for the aircraft. All three accepted the invitation, but each subsequently withdrew, on the grounds that insufficient facts were known. This seems to raise a highly intriguing situation, when we are asked, at this hour of the evening, to sanction a loan of £100 million to £125 million on behalf of our constituents. We must ask ourselves if the Government have been assured on this. Can they speak with the confidence of Mr. Neil Harrison when he said that Without any doubt the Concorde has money-making potential in a wide range of circumstances. At what rate is this loan to be levied? We knew from the Minister of Technology that it would be at the going rate. He was pressed on this a number of times when he made his statement on 27th February. He said then: The rate of interest will be the normal Government rate for this type of lending."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1968; Vol. 759, c. 1234.] We do not have very clear, unequivocal guidance from a communication of that nature. What we are perfectly entitled to ask for is an assurance that there will not be a concealed subsidy in the rate of interest, or alternatively that a deal will not be made with B.A.C. which is any more favourable than that which the Tory Government made with Cunard, when with a prevailing Bank Rate of 4 per cent. they negotiated a deal one half point above Bank Rate. Could we have an indication of that sort, as to whether this is the kind of financing that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking about?

Lastly, we might ask why in paragraph (ii) of the Money Resolution we have the slight ambivalence of £100 million: … or such greater amount not exceeding £125 million … I fancy there may have been a certain amount of give and take in the arithmetic. Of course, we could conclude that in this highly sophisticated industry this was a project which was initially supposed to cost £150 million, and therefore was too expensive for this country to take on single-handed, so it took a 50 per cent. share, which came to £75 million.

The history ever since has been one of escalating cost. The House often performs different functions, and tonight it is acting as a laboratory, in which one further test is being conducted upon what has become a technological Frankenstein which has grown and escalated in cost on such a scale that no one is prepared to take the frightening decision of saying that it has been a misjudgment. We flinch and we come back from this initial decision, because in our hearts we do not believe that this is a commercial enterprise. This must be the fear that strikes every tolerably objective commentator who has watched the proceedings of the Concorde. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assuage this scepticism which I hope I have presented in a fair fashion. No one in this House, no matter on which side he sits, wants to see this project fail. Our constituents have too much at stake.

12 m.

Photo of Mr Edwin Brooks Mr Edwin Brooks , Bebington

There seems, as usual, to be some sort of Parkinson's Law in operation, whereby the greater the amount of the expenditure the House is being asked to sanction, the less time there is available to discuss it. I am bound to say that I regard it as wholly deplorable that such a derisory amount of time is available for this very important matter this evening.

In the Second Reading debate my right hon. Friend gave the assurance to the House that there will be an opportunity for the separate Money Resolution to be debated before the Clause is discussed in Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 1590.] I understand that there are only 10 more minutes now available for back benchers to speak in this debate, and I think it is wholly disgraceful, and no way in which to gain the confidence of hon. Members in the validity of what the Government are proposing tonight. None of us wants to seem unwilling to advance the money for this specific British venture of the Concorde, whose merits I do not now propose to discuss, even if there were time for us to do that, but I regard the procedure whereby this particular matter has been tacked on to an Industrial Expansion Bill as an extremely grave reflection of the way in which this House is being treated. It seems to me we have had, as it were, a cuckoo's egg deposited in a nest never devised for it.

We are being asked to authorise an expenditure of £125 million, an expenditure of which the full details have yet to be put before the Committee where it has not yet been discussed, and an expenditure virtually as much as the total amount of the expenditure under the main Bill. We have not yet had an opportunity to discuss the principle of this industrial financing. When the main Bill came before the House we expected to have the Money Resolution. In some instances, perhaps, fresh Money Resolutions have to be brought to the House, but I think the procedure in this case is wholly wrong.

In the Second Reading debate we had from my right hon. Friend a statement which was as informative as such statements can be, but nevertheless limited, as they must always be because of the time available to the House on such occasions, and in the course of answers to questions legitimately put to him by hon. Members on both sides my right hon. Friend was at pains to point out that there would be opportunity later on in Committee to discuss many of these vital detailed implications of what was being proposed. At one stage, for example, he said that the indemnity proposals would be fully explored during the Committee stage. He went on to discuss many other aspects of what would be clarified. Later he said there would be ample opportunity to discuss the terms and conditions under which the money would be available. The Committee will have this opportunity, but the House will already have been asked to authorise a loan of very considerable magnitude indeed, many of whose details are simply not known and cannot be because of the form of debate the House is now having.

I should like to know how it will be possible to reconcile the terms, or to alter the terms of levying these loans, in relation to those which the French will levy, and how is this procedure to be squared with the principle of equality of cost sharing built into the Concorde treaty. There seem to be complex ambiguities in all this, and one would like to know a great deal more about the indemnification which will be introduced, and what arrangements will be made for loans to be repayable before the end of the 1970s. What happens if they are not repaid? We need clarification of these things.

It is intolerable that there are so many important questions which it seems the House of Commons is not allowed to put at this stage before this Money Resolution is voted upon. I am bound to say that I regard it as most unfortunate, and something which will colour the whole of my future attitude to this venture.

12.5 a.m

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

I echo much of what the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) said. This is an unsatisfactory debate and it is not the first unsatisfactory debate we have had on this subject.

In the short while available to me, I will ask only four of the important questions which need answering. First, why does an extra £25 million appear in this Resolution? The implication in the Minister's statement of 27th February was that only £100 million would be needed. Secondly, what interest rates will apply? We do not have the faintest idea of what the Minister considers would be adequate or whether our rates will be the same as those which the French will be charging. Thirdly, can we have more information about the £30 million for special tools? Is this sum covered by the Resolution? How special are these tools and what other use will there be for them?

Fourthly, what is the real explanation for the slippage? The Minister has been coy about this and many of us think that the real slippage has been political. The French were induced, because of the vacillation of Her Majesty's Government, to set an unrealistic flight date for the 001—I have some information about this which I will give to the Minister later—and, as a result of this, an appearance of slippage has been built into the Concorde project. I trust that the Minister will confirm that there is no slippage connected with the 002.

Many of my constituents work at Weybridge, where much of the airframe work will be done. Like them, I want the project to succeed, not only for their benefit but because it will be of great benefit to the economy. I therefore regret the party nonsense which the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) introduced, particularly in view of the enormous potential of this project, which could earn us £1,500 million if it is successful.

12.7 a.m.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara , Kingston upon Hull North

I regret what the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) said about the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) because there was a great deal of truth in my hon. Friend's comments. We are talking about very great sums of money and we should be taking far greater care than we are able to take in this debate.

The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) said that we were spending this money not without risk and that it was not without risk that Cabot went to Newfoundland from Bristol. Be that as it may, it is without risk that the Bristol Siddeley Company will be getting this money. The Industrial Expansion Bill is designed to give the Minister greater powers of control. I hope that he will take and use them. I understand that a proposed new Clause to that Measure would give my right hon. Friend power to take over shares. I hope he will do that and that the enabling powers in that Bill will be even further extended.

Why, of all the vaches sacrées, did the Concorde "get away", to put it that way? Was the reason that the cancellation charges would have been too great, so that we are prepared to spend this sort of money over a period of time rather than pay the cancellation debt which would be due to the French? Nevertheless, I join hon. Members who have said that, whatever the circumstances, we should have been prepared to go through with this project. There is tremendous economic potential involved in it, not least from the spin-off of research. The Government—indeed, the country—are committed to this project, and I hope that it will succeed.

As for the slippage argument of the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), if there was any political slippage, it occurred when the British signature went on the original contract—and that occurred under a Tory Administration.

12.9 a.m.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I was impressed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks). This is no time to discuss a matter of this importance with this restricted period for debate. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) in this matter, though I must confess that I agree with precious little else that he said.

This is a project which involves a very substantial advance on previous air transport techniques and, in many respects, involves a break-through in existing knowledge of the art. In those circumstances, there is bound to be a very substantial element of risk. None of us is a. prophet and none of us can foresee beyond what has taken place in the past.

On the coming into office of this Government, the aviation industry was told that the Concorde was a prestige project to which they were looking for further economies. I believe in prestige. I want to see something built of which this country can be proud, and I hope that that is how the right hon. Gentleman regards Concorde.

Shortly after that, we had the cancellation of the TSR 2, which was already flying. Then came the cancellation of the HS 681, and that was a project to which we all looked as a means of providing both domestic and short-range aviation to the Continent which would cut down the enormous demands that aerodromes make on land in this country. Then the P 1154 was cancelled as well. Is it surprising that it is not possible to raise money in the City? This sort of atmosphere having been produced in aviation, do hon. Gentlemen opposite really think that private capital can be raised?

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's support to this project. Although the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) might lead one to believe the contrary, this aircraft is being built in my constituency, and a larger proportion of the men who work on it live in my constituency than in any other. I welcome it also because there is a big chance of it not only being a remarkable technological project but a commercial one as well. It is becoming more evident daily that the American SST will fall more and more behind, which gives a tremendous advantage to the Concorde, provided that we press forward with it and do not lose our courage. I welcome the evidence that the right hon. Gentleman shares that view and is determined to press on with it. I hope that that is the spirit in which this Money Resolution is produced.

It is a matter which has nothing to do with the nationalisation of the industry. It is obvious that the actions of the Government have made it almost impossible to raise private money on the project. As for the comments of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West about Ferranti and Bristol Siddeley, I would remind him that the matter arose because of the Report of the Lang Committee, which was set up by a Conservative Government.

I wish to underline particularly the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) about slippage. My information is that the initial flight delay is due to the type of defects which one inevitably finds at this stage of development of an advanced aircraft. I hope that the Minister will tell us if something more serious has occurred. I hope also that he will explain to us why we have selected the rounded figures of £100 million and £125 million, and on what estimates they are based.

I repeat that I welcome the Government's support for the project. I want to see it succeed, perhaps above all else, and, quite apart from its substantial commercial prospects, the country as a whole wants something of which they can be proud. Concorde could well be it.

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

So many hon. Members are claiming that their constituents make Concorde that I had better enter my own case. As the Member for Bristol, South-East, I see it from both ends. My constituents come to see me about it and I see the companies in my official capacity.

I shall do my best to answer the points raised and to take them as quickly as I can. The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) asked me to be more forthcoming. Tonight I have been forthcoming to the extent of £100 million and if the House authorises it, to the extent of £125 million. One cannot be more forthcoming that that. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been taunting me and time after time I have said that production finance would be available. Yet there has not been one word about that. Instead, the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) has talked about slippage and suggested that we are responsible for slippage from the French assembled 001. The hon. Member for Woking has continually been sniping at this project. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] He has suggested it time and again, at Question-time.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

No, I cannot give way. If the hon. Member wants to hear the answers he had better listen to me. Time and again at Question Time he has suggested that the British Government are in some way not supporting the Concorde project and that constituted a continual action designed to shake the confidence of the world's airlines in the likelihood of Concorde coming forward. I think he was trying to make political points and shaking confidence in the likelihood of its flying. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] That is my interpretation of it.

I now come to the question—[Interruption.] I am answering the questions put to me. The hon. Member said I had not been forthcoming. I have said, whenever I have been asked about the project, that it was on time, and that I would provide the production finance. When, tonight, I bring forward the Money Resolution, the hon. Member asks me to be more forthcoming. I have been, to the extent of the Money Resolution.

It is infuriating to hon. Members opposite to find that their warnings and sniping have turned out to be wrong. Hon. Members have referred to the extent of the commitment and risk that the nation is taking on. Of course it is. The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield), who wound up for the Opposition, knows that where one has a project as big as this, with the technical difficulties inevitably associated with advanced technology, there is bound to be an element of risk. I have always made clear that one cannot, with a project of this kind, ever be absolutely certain and that is one reason why the Government have undertaken the responsibility for financing. There are all sorts of responsibility which may be affected by the complexities of production and the uncertainties of marketing which are connected with things over which the Government have no control which make this an uncertain project, and that is why the Government have to assume special responsibility for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Ellis) said that some of the Press comment on the Concorde had not been helpful. There was a recent broadcast by the B.B.C., which was supposed to be funny but which was disgraceful and outrageous. It drew a comparison with the R 101, which other hon. Members as well as I will remember crashed in 1930 or 1931. We have not been helped by such comment.

This is a case where, if this country wishes to remain in advanced technology, it has to be prepared to support the engineers engaged in the production of this aircraft. Of course, in one sense, it is not private enterprise at all. As the hon. Member for Bristol, West said, the nation is taking the risk. This is not private enterprise but a national enterprise. We shall have, not only under the arrangements which the Chief Secretary negotiated but particularly in this case, full equality of information. I shall see that the books are open to us, because Government money is involved.

The hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) criticised the project, and much of his criticism was directed at his colleagues who signed the "unbreakable treaty" on Concorde. He asked, why Government loans? Because of the element of risk. Anyone who believes that advanced technology, whether the American space programme or anything else, can be entirely privately financed, needs to look at the realities again.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about interest rates. I have answered this before, but I will do so again. The answer is the going rate, which means that, in negotiations between the company and the banks, which are normally commercial negotiations, it would usually be Bank Rate plus a half per cent., but I cannot say what Bank Rate will be at the time that the loan is negotiated. Exchequer loans will be at the normal minimum rate under the National Loans Fund.

My. hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) complained about the way that this has been handled, but he might have been more generous, because we have this statutory power without a special Bill under the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, under which I have already been financing production. Because it was so important, we wrote a special Clause into the Bill.

What are the opportunities for debate? First, there is this short debate on the Money Resolution; next the Committee stage; then Report stage; and then Third Reading on the whole Bill, although that might be a rather large instrument to use, and the fact that all the money will be provided by means of annual Votes by Parliament. The suggestion that this has been slipped in in some way is a misreading of the careful procedures involved.

The hon. Member for Woking asked why £100 million to £125 million. This is a common procedure, to come to the House and say that we believe that this is what will be necessary and to provide that, if it is, the Government will have to ask for an Order extending it. This safeguards Parliamentary procedures. Instead of saying £125 million immediately, we give the House a chance to consider the matter half way through. The £30 million for equipment is provided for under the 1949 Act.

The hon. Member for Woking also implied that it was the British Government who had insisted on this date being maintained which has led to the slippage. This is an alarming slippage, and could lead to a six months' delay—

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

I was talking about certification.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

I assumed that the hon. Gentleman was talking about slippage in the first flight. Certification will be done as soon as possible. Naturally we hope that there will not be any consequential delay parallel with the delay in the first flight. The Boeing has been delayed by 12 months, so Concorde's lead has been increased over the last few months.

It might be helpful if I sum up these financial commitments. On the latest figures agreed with the French, the cost of research and development will amount to £250 million. On this we shall get back a levy on sales. The intra-mural amount of £30 million is covered on the Votes. The Government loans and guarantees are what I have brought forward, and then there is the plant bought and rented, which will be loaned at normal commercial rates.

The only remaining commercial possibility is the contingent liability of a total disaster at some late stage in the programme, which might give rise to a £200 million commitment, but this is on the assumption that everything went wrong when a lot of aircraft had been produced and there was a disaster, but this would be handled in a different way.

I think the Government have brought all these facts before the House as fully as could reasonably be expected. I hope that the House will approve the Money Resolution and permit a debate on the Committee stage in which we shall have an opportunity of considering the project in greater detail.

Question put:

The House proceeded to a Division

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Bristol North West

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not in order that the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who shouted "No" to this vote, should put in Tellers?

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

It is a matter of choice whether any hon. Member who calls "No" puts in Tellers or not.

Question agreed to.

Resolved,That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to authorise the provision of financial support for certain industrial projects, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any expenditure incurred by the Minister of Technology under arrangements for providing financial support for the production in the United Kingdom of the supersonic aircraft known as the Concorde, subject to the limitations—

  1. (i) that loans made by the Minister under such arrangements shall be repayable, and guarantees given by him thereunder in respect of money borrowed shall expire, not later than 30th June 1979; and
  2. (ii) that the aggregate of the following, namely the principal outstanding in respect of loans made by the Minister under such arrangements, the amount for which he is liable under guarantees of the repayment of principal given by him under such arrange. ments and any sums that have been paid by him pursuant to such guarantees of the repayment of principal and have not been repaid to him, shall at no time exceed £100 million or such greater amount not exceeding £125 million as may be provided by order.