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asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has received from the hon. Member for Blackpool, South the petition from the employees of the British Aircraft Corporation, Military Aircraft Division, Warton, who are opposed to the nationalisation of the aerospace industry; and if he will make a statement.
As the Secretary of State said in reply to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) that he was in favour of consulting the workers, will the Minister of State take note of the petition, which contains 2,400 names, representing 65 per cent, of those who were canvassed and over half of the work force? Has he any evidence that the opinion of workers at other aircraft plants is any different from that? Do not those figures show that nationalisation is being pushed through purely for reasons of dogma?
First, I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's statistical analysis. Secondly, in the last six weeks I have visited 12 aircraft factories in different parts of Great Britain, and in every one the trade union representatives have expressed to me their passionate support for public ownership. As it happens, I have in my possession a resolution passed on 29th March by the Aircraft Industry Joint Unions Lay Executive Committee, in which representatives of workers in BAC, Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hawker Siddeley Dynamics and Scottish Aviation express their full support for the Bill and
deplore the filibustering tactics being employed by the Opposition Members in Standing Committee D which are to the detriment of the industry and the workers employed in it.
Is the Minister aware that his answer merely confirms that his consultations are an absolute charade and comprise only a repetition of views put to him by a few politically motivated shop stewards whose opinions do not in any way represent the overwhelming views of the people who work in the industry, as opposed to those who make jobs for themselves by purporting to represent the views of the workers?
I have undertaken wider consultations in relation to the Bill than have ever been undertaken before. I have visited 12 aircraft factories, four shipyards and one ship repair yard in the space of less than six weeks. The support of the workers' representatives for nationalisation is unanimous. On the other hand, they expressed their anger and contempt for the action of the Opposition in blocking this legislation.
As the principal blockers of the legislation are the Government, who introduced the Bill last year and then withdrew it, perhaps the Minister of State will withdraw his remark in which he blamed the delay on the Opposition. As the other justification for the Bill was that it had the overwhelming support of the people in the industry, and it was said that they would be consulted, is the Minister prepared to allow all the people in the industry to say, in future, whether or not it should be nationalised?
By my proposals for industrial democracy I am offering the workers a greater say in the industry's future than has ever been offered before. When I wrote to the Conservative Party and asked whether it would like to consult the Government and the Chairman of the Organising Committee about industrial democracy, the Conservative Party did not even answer my letter.
Employment prospects depend ultimately on the industry's ability to sell its products in world markets, where present conditions are uncertain. However, the Government intend that the British industry should maintain a significant and profitable share of the substantial new business expected by the 1980s.
I think that most of us in the House will be happy to hear that the Minister is so confident that this industry has a real future because, contrary to general belief—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] Is the Minister aware that, contrary to general belief, many people are affected, in widely scattered areas of the country, and that this matter is of interest to the majority of hon. Members in this House?
Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that proper steps are being taken to make certain that there is an easy transition from military to civil application of the aerospace industry?
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, namely, that the success of the British aircraft industry is of great importance to hundreds of thousands of workers in this country. I have visited many of these factories and discussed the problems with management and workers' representatives at all levels. It is essential that we do our best to obtain new civil projects, and I attempted to do that when I had discussions with M. Cavaille in Paris last week. The aircraft industry depends as well on military projects, and when I went to Preston recently I found a wide welcome for the decision to order the 385 Tornado—MRCA—planes.
Following the discussions in Paris, would my hon. Friend care to confirm Press reports that three collaborative projects with the French were discussed? Will he also confirm that two of the three involve French airframes, and will he say whether, if we are going ahead, we shall discuss the supply of British engines for those airframes?
I cannot confirm that. One case—the HS 146—which I put forward strongly to M. Cavaille, will be an aircraft of British design, which we hope will provide some work for Toulouse as well. The Airbus is what we considered. We want to provide maximum work both in the airframe and machine industries. That was one of the objects of my talks with M. Cavaille.