No. 61, in page 14, line 2 leave out from "day" to end of line 3 and insert
(b)any liability of British Aerospace under section 45 of that Act (other payments to British Aerospace) to make any payment in respect of the capital amounts mentioned in section 2(c) of this Act corresponding to
a payment under section 16(2) and relating to a period falling before the appointed day;
and any sums received by the Secretary of State from the successor company in discharge of any such liability shall be paid into the Consolidated Fund.".—[Mr. Michael Marshall.]
I beg to move amendment No. 62, in page 14, leave out lines 4 to 10.
We come to the end of this group of technical amendments and we appreciate the opportunity to make progress. We are bringing together a number of matters that have been discussed on many occasions in Committee. Nevertheless, they are important.
This amendment reflects the intention of the Government that all dividends on British Aerospace's public dividend capital should have been determined before the appointed day. In other words, it is part of the tidying up process that we believe is necessary. Our expectation is that a final dividend will be agreed between the Government and the corporation and paid by the corporation before the appointed day. If, for example, the appointed day were 1 July 1980 the final dividend would be in respect of the first half of 1980.
Paragraph 3(1) of schedule 2 provides that if a dividend has been determined but not paid before the appointed day the successor company is liable to pay it. Paragraph 3(2), however, provides that if a dividend has not been determined before the appointed day it may be determined thereafter. We believe that it would be wrong for the successor company to be saddled with an indeterminate liability which in the last resort might be imposed unilaterally by the Secretary of State.
Section 16 of the 1977 Act provides for the corporation initially to propose a dividend, but if it makes no proposal or if the proposal is not acceptable to the Secretary of State he may impose a dividend himself. Indeed, investors could be discouraged from buying shares if the flotation took place without a final dividend having been determined because if the commencing capital is fixed the proportion of public dividend capital could be substantial.
We therefore believe that it would be wrong to retain the power to determine a dividend after the appointed day and accordingly propose the deletion of paragraph 3(2). The corollary of this is that it is essential that the final dividend should be settled before the appointed day and provision was originally included in the Bill before we put this to British Aerospace.
We have made the position clear to the present board of British Aerospace and we therefore believe it proper that paragraph 3(2) should be deleted. I commend the amendment to the House.
No. 65, in page 14, line 28, at end insert—
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We have spent many hours of debate on the Bill and I will try to deal briefly with what I see as its achievements and why I believe that this Bill holds out the best prospects for the future of British Aerospace and for the employees who work in it.
The change brought about by this Bill is simply stated. The whole business of a statutory corporation is to be transferred to a Companies Act company initially owned entirely by Government in which the public will be able to purchase shares. The end product will be a new company, British Aerospace Ltd., jointly owned by the Government, the employees of the company and by the general public. That is a simple description of the Bill.
The effects of the Bill are far greater than that. The most important change brought about by the Bill will be to put responsibility for a key manufacturing industry firmly where it should lie, in the hands of those who manage and work in the industry. In a nationalised industry, however hard the Government try to achieve this, there is always the temptation to intervene.
Again and again we have seen that what is politically attractive and what is necessary for national economic reasons replaces what is commercially sound and in the best interests of the company. We are confident that in the private sector the skills, the technology, the experience and the dedication of those who work in the industry will flourish unencumbered by the controls and influence of the Government that are unavoidable in the nationalised industries. We are confident that they will succeed.
The Opposition have repeatedly and unsuccessfully attempted to cast doubt upon the ability and resources of the new company, British Aerospace Ltd. It is a slur that will be bitterly resented by thousands of men and women who work for British Aerospace, who appreciate the ability—human and technological—that makes up the strength of the corporation and which will be transferred in total to the new company. They know, as we know, the success that British Aerospace has shown in fighting for and winning business in this, the fiercest of international markets.
I wish to take this opportunity to set out not views or misrepresentations, but undisputed facts. The financial figures speak for themselves. The last published accounts for British Aerospace—those for the year ending 31 December 1978—showed a business with a turnover of over £890 million, and trading profits of nearly £80 million. The corporation target for 1979 was to increase those trading profits to £90 million.
These are objective measures of the continuing profitability of the business. The return on assets employed has been above 20 per cent. in each year since the corporation was formed. However, the constituent companies that formed British Aerospace showed on aggregate a return on assets employed of above 20 per cent. in every year since 1972—sometimes markedly higher than that.
That is what we said to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) during debates on the nationalisation Bill. We asked "Why change it?" Thank goodness this Bill comes quickly so that the dead hand of nationalisation is not allowed to rest for too long on this precious and vital industry.
The figures which I have mentioned give the lie—if any refutation is required—to any suggestion that the future company will not be strong and to any suggestion that aerospace is a business which can operate only under the umbrella, and in the possession of Government. Such an idea will be rejected out of hand by those who remember with pride the great achievements of the aircraft industry in private hands. Hon. Members may mock at that, but they will remember the aircraft that helped to win the Second World. War. They were produced by private industry. It produced the world's first jet airliner and the first and only operational vertical take-off aircraft. Those aircraft were the products of the industry under private ownership. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the public money?"] Of course public money was put into the industry. There is a legislative vehicle for investing more public money. But those were the products of an industry in private hands. The planes flying now are not the products of nationalisation. They were made by workers in a nationalised industry but they are the products of the research and development going back many years before nationalisation was dreamt of.
The previous aircraft companies have shown that the industry can succeed in private ownership. There is all the more reason to be confident in the ability of British Aerospace Ltd. to compete and succeed. We have set our face against any split of the present business and against any suggestion that particularly profitable activities might be hived off. British Aerospace Ltd. will carry on the whole of the business presently carried on by British Aerospace. The Bill provides for only one universal successor to the present nationalised industry. Much of the strength of British Aerospace derives from its balanced business—civil and military aircraft, guided weapons and dynamics systems, and the as yet small but growing space business. Its spread of business in different markets—different commercial and geographical markets—helps to protect it against downturn in any one of those markets.
The Government will stand behind the existing commitments to British Aerospace Ltd., which will enable it to play its full part in international projects. Where the Government have entered into specific agreements relating to contracts entered into by British Aerospace, they will maintain the agreements and honour their obligations in respect of contracts to be carried out by British Aerospace Ltd. In particular, as we have mentioned in our debates many times, the Government will continue to support the participation by the United Kingdom airframe industry in the Airbus programme, the most important civil aircraft undertaking which benefits from a specific Government commitment of support. More generally, the new company will not be debarred from receiving any form of Government support generally available to industry. At least three Acts could be used for funding. In particular, there will be no limitation on British Aerospace Ltd., as there now is for the statutory corporation, preventing it from receiving launch aid, if that were appropriate. It would be for British Aerospace Ltd., if money could not be raised in the market, to justify a new project to the Government.
In these, and other ways, the new company will be treated like any other company in the private sector. There is, however, a particular aspect of British Aerospace which demands special treatment. British Aerospace Ltd., like the present nationalised industry, is of critical importance to the defence of this country. We are determined therefore that there should be no question of this key British asset falling into undesirable foreign hands. To prevent this, we have devised a restriction in the constitution of the company—in its articles of association—to limit foreign ownership to not more than 15 per cent. of the voting rights. Our legal advice is that the provisions of the article concerned are satisfactory. However, if the hon. Member for Nuneaton can show that the article is deficient, perhaps he will do so. His interests on this and ours are the same. We do not want foreign ownership to extend beyond the percentage we have stated.
If the hon. Gentleman and the House need clarification, I will say foreign hands which would be undesirable, but at this late hour I ask the hon. Gentleman again to read the article. He knows perfectly well that we are talking about foreign ownership.
We do not just say "foreign hands" if we want to say that would be undesirable. I agree that it is slightly tautologous, but I make it quite clear that, like Labour Members, we would find it quite undesirable that control or influence should fall into foreign hands.
We are determined as a Government to exercise our voting shares to ensure that this restriction continues, and we shall retain a shareholding of at least 25 per cent. which would enable us to prevent that restriction on foreign ownership lapsing. I am confident that British Aerospace Ltd. will continue to justify in all senses of the word the national title that it so proudly wears.
The Bill provides for the transfer of business from the corporation to a new limited company. Continuity is the essence of that transfer. It will continue as the same enterprise in its present form, with no question of its being split up. There will be continuity of management because the same directors will serve on the board of the new company. There will be continuity of employment because the same workers will work for the new company and their contracts of employment will be carried forward. There will be continuity of important measures such as pension entitlement.
It will almost seem as though nothing has changed when the transfer takes place, but the benefits of freedom will soon be felt. Management will immediately be free of the shackles of its present politicalmasters—even of a Government who pride themselves on nonintervention. Management will take decisions in the best interests of the company and not those of the Government of the day.
Of course, the company will be subject to the challenging disciplines of the market, but it is responsiveness to those disciplines which is the basis for survival of any company and the basis of vitality and viability. Jobs are not secure in nationalised industries—
—which can run to Government for help. Jobs are not secure when monopolies are not subject to the pressure of competition. They are secure only when a company can show that it can provide the goods the customers want at the price and of the quality they want.
A nationalised industry with a good management and a willing work force can, I agree, provide this service for a while, but all the evidence of recent history is that slowly the effects of a monoply and of political interference begin to show themselves. That has regrettably been the history of our nationalised industries.
I say to the House and to the employees of British Aerospace that the only real prospect of a long-term future for this company is for it to be in the private sector, proving that it can survive in competition with its domestic and international competitors. That is the prospect that we hold out for the future of British Aerospace. That is the best guarantee that we can give to the employees. In the confident hope that British Aerospace Ltd. will have a magnificent and proud future, I commend the Bill to the House.
It is interesting that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury should bring his lugubrious presence to bear on the ending of the nationalised British aerospace industry—counting up as he eagerly does the money he will get to save cutting social services, education and all the decent welfare services that this nation has built up. That is the rationale behind the sale of British Aerospace.
It suits the Government's philosophy to say that they are putting the industry into the position of free enterprise, that it will face domestic competition. That is nonsense. It will, in fact, face international competition with one hand tied behind its back. It will be supported, to the degree that it has been supported for many years, from public funds. The Minister went out of his way to say that this company will have access to public funds, so that the friends of the Conservative Party—
If the hon. Member came here often enough to know when the ten-minute rule applied, it would help us all. This is a precious national asset and the Minister described it as such in his speech. He told us that in its last year the company made a profit of £80 million. That is precisely why it is being sold off. The national assets that provide a social service will not be touched. For example, the railways will not be sold off and the Government cannot touch the coal mining industry because they fear industrial havoc.
The friends of the Conservative Party who hope for get-rich-quick schemes anticipate advantage from this change. It will be of no advantage to the nation or the 68,000 directly involved in the industry and the other 68,000 and more who work for it indirectly.
The Minister talked about the dead hand of nationalisation in almost the same breath that he was talking about profits of £80 million. Earlier this evening he said that no nationalised industry makes a profit. The very industry that he has been busy selling off over the past few weeks by piloting the Bill through the House has been making a profit of £80million. The Minister is fully aware that, to cut down the public sector borrowing requirement, the Government have imposed the shackles of which he is so critical and directly intervened and forced the gas and electricity industries, and the postal service, to increase their prices.
As said earlier, the industry will depend massively on public funds. The Minister said that the industry will not be debarred from receiving public assistance. He also said that it will be free from the shackles of Government. I wonder how massive military contracts will be supervised. Will it be that the aircraft industry will never make excessive profits? Is that our experience as a nation? Of course it is not; excessive profits have been made on Government contracts. Will the Government impose shackles to ensure that a contract is adhered to and that only a fair and reasonable profit is made?
As the Bill goes through its Third Reading let the good old fashioned doctrine of caveat emptor apply. Let the buyer beware. We know, as we have clearly said, that this industry will be nationalised without compensation. So let those who indulge in this adventure adopt that principle which is widely adopted in legal circles. Let them beware.
One of the enormously sad results of the Bill is the ending of the provisions for industrial democracy. The Government have put forward the idea that the purchase of shares—where the employees can afford to buy them—is some sort of substitute for involvement in the daily routine of the work place. That is an illusion. Government Members may laugh but myself and some of my hon. Friends consider that a vote every four or five years is not the peak of democratic achievement.
There should be opportunities for workers to have some involvement in the direction and shaping of their lives. They spend most of their time at work. The 1977 Act contained industrial democracy provisions which were slowly moving in the right direction and achieving further benefits for the workers by involving them in decision making.
Naturally, one cannot change society overnight. The development of industrial democracy will not be achieved overnight. But, given certainty in the industry and a long-term future for public ownership, there is no doubt that it would work. The interest and determination of the workers involved, expressed through their trade unions, indicates that industrial democracy would have developed. It is important for us as a nation to involve workers in the decision-making process.
Lastly, there is the illusion that the Government have again promoted on Third Reading—that this will be a freestanding private enterprise company. It will be a privileged organisation with direct access to hundreds of millions of pounds of public money and direct access to very lucrative contracts for the manufacture of military equipment and aerospace products, just as it has been in the past. It will have access to all the apparatus of the Civil Aviation Act 1949, the Industry Act 1972 and the Science and Technology Act 1965. The Minister has said that over and above the important contracts that the company will have, it will have additional access to the money provided by that legislation. The company will be in a very privileged position indeed.
We say that that amount of public money should be accompanied by some form of public ownership. It will not be too long before another Labour Government take this company into public ownership. In the meantime, I can only hope that the provisions which the Minister has insisted are sufficient to prevent the drift of this company into foreign ownership are a sufficient safeguard, that they are exercised, and that we do not have, over the next two or three years, pressure from the Chief Secretary on to the Secretary of State for Industry—who has egg all over his face from time to time on these matters—pressing further and further to sell off more and more shares, because there is no statutory protection provision. We have assurances. I hope that the Chief Secretary understands that those assurances not to sell shares below the 25 per cent. shareholding mark have been solemnly and clearly given to the House and should not be broken.
All in all, however, the lesson of this legislation is that the sooner we get a Labour Government to restore the company to public ownership, to give confidence to the workers in the industry and to give them the opportunity to shape their industry, the sooner will the industry benefit the nation as a whole. With the disastrous economic policies of the present Government, every day that passes brings nearer the day when we shall have this industry in public ownership once again.
I make only two short points. The first is to congratulate the Ministers who have been responsible for taking the Bill through the Committee and my hon. Friends who were fortunate enough to be members of the Committee. I missed that privilege. But, having occasionally looked in on their proceedings and listened to Opposition speeches there, and having heard the same speakers make the same speeches more than once in Committee, and again here this afternoon, I am put in mind of the late lamented Sidney Smith, who once said of a bishop whom he disliked that he deserved to be preached to death by wild curates. The wild curates of Keighley and other places can go bashing on with their boring old line and their doctrinaire rubbish.
The second and the important point I make is that all Labour Members do when they trot out that tired old stuff is to indicate how far away they are from knowledge of the thoughts and aspirations of the people who work in this industry. They are the people about whom we should be thinking this evening. They are the people who have made the profits and have got on with running the industry under the dead hand of the nationalised management they have had to suffer since the ridiculous Act brought in by the late Labour Government. They are the people who will be carrying the burden in the years ahead. They can best be served by this House passing this Bill and by our expressing our confidence in their ability.
If the honourable curate from Keighley thinks that any of them will ever vote Labour again, he needs his head seen to.
Opposition Members have raised many debates and discussions, because the points that we make are true. The trouble about those Conservative Members who were on the Committee is that we still have not heard what they think about the Bill. The only time that we missed the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) was when he visited his constituents in Cyprus.
The Government's proposals must be judged in the light of our national interests. The world aerospace industry is dominated by three American corporations—Boeing, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas. Our European partners have aerospace industries. However, apart from the United States, Britain has the largest aerospace industry. At least one of those American companies has declared its intention of destroying all other independent aerospace industries.
If the Bill is enacted, it will assist that corporation and it will lead to the demise of British Aerospace. The independence and strength of British Aerospace acts as a barrier to its complete take-over by multinational companies. We have frequently said that British Aerospace is a highly competitive and internationally successful company. That is why it is being sold. The Minister cannot deny that it is highly profitable and successful. Norcan he deny that that is why the Government are selling it off. They are not attempting to sell off British Shipbuilders.
In 1977, British Aerospace represented 16 per cent. of the gross domestic product. From 1970 to 1977 that percentage grew at a rate of 4·7 per cent. per annum. The national gross domestic product grew by only 1·9 per cent. during the same period. That proves that British Aerospace was hardly unsuccessful after two years of nationalisation. It did not demand private finance. Indeed, in his report of 1978, the chairman clearly pointed out that:
British Aerospace is unique among major aerospace manufacturers in the western world in being required to fund all its own civil research.
He drew an analogy between our aerospace industry and that of the United States. The latter is heavily funded by the American Government.
Although British Aerospace has to find its own finance, it is still a successful company. That is why Conservative Members are so interested in denationalisation. They wish to get their hands on it. Asset strippers on the Stock Exchange will then be able to benefit from years and years of taxpayers' money. That money will be abused by Conservative Members.
Aerospace is a high technology industry. It therefore needslong term investment. Investment in civil aircraft will take about 10 years before breaking even. Historically, private investment has been notoriously hostile to anything other than low risk, short-term investment. There is no guarantee that Conservative Members will be able to convince their friends to invest in civil aircraft.
Who will concern themselves with the national interest? Certainly not privately funded capital, which is bound to argue for concentration on guaranteed profits from Ministry of Defence contracts. We are not opposed to that. We would rather not make weapons of war, but accept that we must have defences and therefore that we require a military capability in British Aerospace. The profits are made on defence contracts. That is where taxpayers money guarantees profit. The emphasis in British Aerospace will move towards Ministry of Defence aircraft. We are probably seeing the last civil aircraft being built in this country now. Once the company begins to be taken over by private shareholding, there will no longer be a thrust towards building civil aircraft.
Private investors want immediate profit. Once the company is divided up, we shall not have the overall balance and benefit from the civil or military side of the business in general planning. There will be a push towards association with American companies and the lucrative subcontracting work. That is where British Aerospace is heading under the Bill.
We are seeing the ratchet being put into operation—a winding down of Government interest in this nationalised industry. Government interest will be slowly pushed back, until little remains. There will certainly be no ability to control the industry. The Government have failed to convince anyone in British Aerospace and British industry generally that the Bill makes sense. The management made that clear that it said that continuity of operation and concentration on organisational efficiency would have been preferable, without the distraction of changes effected by Parliament—and they were talking of the changes in the Bill. The Government have failed to convince British Aerospace management that the Bill will do anything except cause further and continuing problems.
I mentioned the problems faced by skilled engineers and craftsmen in British Aerospace. As the industry begins to deteriorate, they will have no confidence in remaining with British Aerospace. It will be detrimental to the whole country if these people are bribed away by offers of better, more interesting and rewarding jobs in other companies.
The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) is indicating that I should wind up. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I do not intend to be wound up. This is a serious debate. I know that the hon. Gentleman would like to get home. The workers in British Aerospace would like to keep their jobs and maintain their industry, which is what we are talking about.
The divisive attempts by hon. Gentlemen to convince workers to buy shares, and pretend that that shall give them a say in British Aerospace, are ludicrous. Not many workers in British Aerospace can afford to buy a sufficient number to give them a say. The Government can convince the workers that they have a stake in the industry by encouraging them to continue to participate in productivity schemes. The workers are contributing to the future of British Aerospace by increased productivity and sharing the benefits. Tonight we are seeing Tory ideology put above the interests of the workers. Everyone, including management and unions, is opposed to these proposals.
All is not well, even within the Conservative Party, because not everyone agrees with the Government's policy of non-intervention by the State in industry. It is a pity that the Lord Privy Seal did not give his lecture earlier, instead of last Thursday in Cambridge, because we might have been able to use passages from it in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman was quoted in The Observer on Sunday as saying:
In the Conservative view, economic liberalism ála Professor Hayek, because of its starkness and its failure to create a sense of community, is not a safeguard of political freedom but a threat to it.
This Bill poses a threat to the workers in British Aerospace. We have already made clear that when the next Labour Government are returned we shall renationalise the industry. That is the best safeguard for the workers in it. They can have confidence that, on the return of a Labour Government, we shall take the industry back into public ownership. Thatis the only way we shall ensure that those who work in it will stay there and continue to maintain a viable and healthy British aerospace industry.
Having listened to many hours of discussion on the Bill, I can with accuracy say that there has been the usual deliberate attempt by the Opposition to build upon that Socialist myth—the superiority of nationalisation.
In my constituency, the vast majority of aerospace workers entered the industry when it was in private hands. They built their careers when it was in private hands. They achieved their skills and job satisfaction when it was in private hands. In other words, they had confidence in private enterprise. That confidence was not ill-founded.
Hatfield can boast a De Havilland Close, a Comet Road, and large buildings on the A1still referred to as Hawker Siddeley—all examples of the significance and importance of this key industry over the years.
The Bill is a recognition of the value of aerospace to our country. It seeks to learn the lessons of the past which have given us such a great aviation history and thereby gain advantage for the future by once more allowing commercial judgments to be based upon commercial funds. I believe that the British Aerospace Bill will do much to back the judgment of aerospace employees who have put their faith in this vital industry.
All I can say—to put it in the vernacular—is "You could have fooled me". The hon. Gentleman certainly did not make a speech even of that mild length in Committee, but probably the less said about that the better.
In moving the Third Reading, the Minister of State referred to the interests of the workers in the industry. He did not tell us of his own experience some weeks ago when he went to speak to the workers in the Preston area. The exchanges then made fairly clear that they disagreed with the Government's intention embodied in the Bill. I have had the pleasure of seeing a draft of the record of the exchanges which took place, and the hon. Gentleman's final comment to the meeting was "We will have to agree to differ".
That brings me to one of the most important aspects of the Bill. The workers in the industry have in no way been consulted. There is no confidence in the industry that the Bill is in their interest in terms of their future. In fact, the contrary is true. Throughout the whole period from Second Reading to today, there has been uncertainty and anxiety, and that anxiety was reflected in the Preston area at a meeting of workers who instructed their shop stewards to choose the appropriate time to stage a one-day stoppage in order to demonstrate their opposition to the Bill.
I do not wish to give way to yet another hon. Member from the Government Benches who finds it appropriate now to try to get in on the act but who had little to say about the industry in Committee. I understand his reasons for being reluctant in Committee. He was under the control of a most active Whip, who ensured that the business went through without delay. I said on Second Reading that, having heard the predecessor of the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Colvin) on the subject of British Aerospace, I could only view the hon. Member as a very poor substitute.
There has been talk tonight of the ideological divide. We all know what happened with Rolls-Royce. There are certainly ideological differences on this and similar measures. The Government are anxious to serve their masters in industry. They were put into government to protect the economic interests of the capitalist class and that is what this exercise tonight is all about. Earlier, the Secretary of State referred to the industry, and it could have been said that a consensus existed within the Chamber about the viability of the industry, its efficiency, the dedication of its workers and many other matters.
Tory Members have argued that this state of affairs existed prior to public ownership. It certainly did. We have heard of the hundreds of millions of pounds of public money that went into the private sector to make it the efficient concern that it was. It was not a question of private enterprise by itself achieving the type of industry that we took into public ownership in 1977. The bankruptcy of the economic policies of the industry then was illustrated by the fact that it had to come, cap in hand, to Tory and Labour Governments for financial assistance to enable it to compete with its overseas rivals.
Against that background the Minister had the temerity to say that it was incumbent upon the Government to lift the dead hand of nationalisation from the industry's back. Yet he has given us the figures showing that it was highly profitable when it was in public ownership. We are faced with Conservative dogma. Private profit is the god of the Conservative Party. As a result of that we are faced with this Bill.
Our position is well known to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is well known to the House. We believe that it is impossible to plan our economy effectively as long as we are prepared to leave industry in the hands of private enterprise, subject to market forces, which it is incapable of controlling. Without planning there can be no economic stability in the industry. That fact—and I repeat this because I know that Conservative Members do not like it—is illustrated by the need for the industry to come to the House for financial assistance. It would not have been necessary to pour hundreds of millions of pounds of public money into the aerospace industry if private enterprise had been successful. It patently and obviously was a failure.
During the last two years a tremendous feeling has grown up, and I am particularly conscious of it because about 12,000 to 14,000 aerospace workers live in my area. They are extremely proud of their skill and the product that they make. [Interruption.] My majority is 621, and I might add that that is 592 votes more than are in the hands of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins). He is another of those who had little to say in Committee because he, too, was controlled by the Whips.
There were many occasions in the previous Parliament when the Whips, who were trying to ensure that that Government's measures went through, were dis- satisfied with some of us who sought to express our opinions in Standing Committees, but they did not prevent us from doing so, because we had a commitment to our constituents to represent their views.
I am sorry to have to end—
I appreciate that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Out of order I may be, but nevertheless I speak with some feeling on this matter.
Aerospace workers did not vote at the last election, and have not voted since, for this industry—in which they have invested a tremendous amount of their energy and their skill—to be squandered away by Conservative Members in the interests of their friends in the CBI, or elsewhere, who cannot move quickly enough to take advantage of a highly profitable industry which is profitable only because of the tremendous work put into it by ordinary working people who will be exploited even more under private enterprise than they have been hitherto.
I hope that it will be noted that there is only one speech from the Opposition Front Bench on Third Reading—not two as from the Government Front Bench—and that the total time taken by the Opposition Front Bench today has been considerably shorter than many of the contributions by Ministers.
We have resisted the Bill strongly, because we are dealing with probably the most successful publicly owned manufacturing industry that this country has known. The Minister of State paid tribute to that when he pointed out that the trading profits of British Aerospace last year were about £90 million. The hon.
Gentleman also paid tribute to its return of about 24 per cent.
The Minister might also have mentioned the order book of £3,000 million, stretching way into the future, and the fact that the aerospace industry is one of the few that are still taking on substantial numbers of workers. If, as the Minister of State says, it is so successful, why change it now? Why reverse all that and put it in jeopardy? The workers in the industry know that the success and profitability was not achieved through the activities or investment of the private owners. The achievements of British Aerospace have been sustained and aspired to only because the previous Labour Government put in public money.
There would not have been a 146 project or a continuing BAC111 project and we would not have joined the Airbus Industries projects as a full partner if the previous Labour Government had not put in public money. Workers in the industry know that private ownership failed the industry last time and we are determined to resist it this time. We do not want it put back in the hands of those who failed the industry and the nation before.
Every aircraft project launched in this country since the war has required the support of public money. The Financial Times said on 24 July last year, when the Secretary of State announced his intentions:
If the Government follows a totally commercial policy in its attitude towards British Aerospace, then the British aircraft industry will almost certainly contract in size.
Workers in the aerospace industry fear that we could already have seen the launching of the last civil aircraft project in this country. That is why from this night on every worker in the aerospace industry in this country should start to worry about his future. That is the result of the Bill.
The dynamic side is where the money is, but there is nothing in the Bill or in what Ministers have said that will prevent the splitting up of the industry. In fact, because the industry cannot get the Treasury guarantees or raise the money elsewhere, it will be forced to sell its more profitable manufacturing parts. Not only is there no guarantee that the industry will not be split up, but there is no guarantee that we shall keep it under the control of this country. It is as bad as that.
The Government have said that they intend to maintain a 25 per cent. shareholding. If they are so determined to do that, in order to prevent change in the articles of association of the new company and so hell-bent on preserving that sort of blocking mechanism, why do they not put it in the Bill? Why did they not insert the blocking mechanism by tabling their own amendment or accepting one of our proposals?
The Government do not intend to maintain any control. The Government know, even in the articles of association they have drafted, that they cannot keep the industry in this country. This is happening at the worst possible time. Other Governments are increasing their involvement in their aerospace industries. The American aerospace giants are beginning to fear the competition that British Aerospace can mount. Airbus Industrie is starting to be successful. This is the time that the Government choose to pull out the rug. The downfall that could befall British Aerospace because this Government withdraw their support is that, at a most critical time, it will be handed over on a plate to become an American sub-contractor.
The same Government who intend to kill off our car industry, and to denationalise the steel industry, intend to hand over our successful, publicly owned aerospace industry on a plate to foreigners, having abolished all exchange controls to make the process even easier. If they cannot accept what the Opposition say, why cannot they accept the Plowden committee's view, that the one thing that would save the industry is a substantial Government stake in its ownership, management and operation? Why cannot they accept what The Economist said on 8 July 1967—that
it may take something as draconian as an effective nationalisation to produce this change of heart. Or 250,000 aircraft workers had better start looking for other jobs"?
If the Government cannot accept what the Plowden report said or what The Economist said, will they accept that the policy of the Labour Party and the TUC is that the next Labour Government will renationalise this industry without compensation? That is the policy of
this party. That is the policy of the TUC. That is why we say that, on an essentially temporary basis, we may lose the vote in the House tonight but we dare not lose the argument in the country.
We have had a long run on this Bill since the Standing Committee began on 27 November. It is, perhaps, understandable that some of the arguments today have seemed familiar to those who have attended all the Bill's stages. I do not intend to detain the House for long. The arguments of both sides are well understood.
There are those, like the Government, who take the view that this industry can thrive and will survive under private enterprise. We have come forward with a moderate proposal that commands a good deal of interest because of the employee shareholding. Yet we encounter many of the tired, old arguments. I do not intend to rebut them. My hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) has firmly identified the kind of party political argument that the Opposition were putting forward. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) has spoken, as he did on a number of occasions in Committee. When Opposition Members tweak their tails and suggest that my hon. Friends should have spoken, I have to say, yet again, that we, on the Government side, are together. We understand the arguments. We have a united view. We understand the problems of the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) and his divided Benches. The hon.
There is agreement on both sides of the House about the vital importance of the British aerospace industry. There is agreement on the contribution that the industry makes to defence. There is agreement on the human and technological skills that are involved. Disagreement arises over how the skills of that vital industry are to be sustained and how they are to thrive in the future. Those hon. Members who accept the mixed economy—there are some on the Opposition Benches—and recognise that this is a reasonable package, have been silent. We have heard instead some of the more violent voices of those who do not want a mixed economy. They want State control. That is what we are determined to reverse in the Bill.
I find it difficult not to feel that in a sense this is an important moment. From a personal point of view, I feel a great sense of pride in having taken part in a Bill which will prevent this industry from going down the wrong track. Having lived through the nationalisation, denationalisation and renationalisation of steel, I know what it can do to an industry. The Bill comes in the nick of time, and I commend it to the House.
|Division No. 170]||AYES||[11.50 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Bilfen, Rt Hon John||Bryan, Sir Paul|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Biggs-Davison, John||Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick|
|Alexander, Richard||Blackburn, John||Buck, Antony|
|Ancram, Michael||Blaker, Peter||Budgen, Nick|
|Arnold, Tom||Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Boscawen, Hon Robert||Butcher, John|
|Atkins, Robert (Preston North)||Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)||Butler, Hon Adam|
|Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Bowden, Andrew||Cadbury, Jocelyn|
|Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)||Boyson, Dr Rhodes||Carlisle, John (Luton West)|
|Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)||Braine, Sir Bernard||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoin)|
|Banks, Robert||Bright, Graham||Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Brinton, Tim||Chalker, Mrs Lynda|
|Beith, A. J.||Brittan, Leon||Channon, Paul|
|Bendall, Vivian||Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Chapman, Sydney|
|Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)||Brooke, Hon Peter||Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Brotherton, Michael||Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)|
|Best, Keith||Browne, John (Winchester)||Cockeram, Eric|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Bruce-Gardyne, John||Colvin, Michael|
|Cope, John||King, Rt Hon Tom||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Cormack, Patrick||Kitson, Sir Timothy||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Corrie, John||Knight, Mrs Jill||Raison, Timothy|
|Costain, A. P.||Knox, David||Rathbone, Tim|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lamont, Norman||Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)|
|Critchley, Julian||Lang, Ian||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Crouch, David||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Renton, Tim|
|Dean, Paul (North Somerset)||Latham, Michael||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Lawrence, Ivan||Ridley, Hon Nicholas|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Lawson, Nigel||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Lee, John||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Dover, Denshore||Le Marchant, Spencer||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)|
|Dunn, Robert (Dartford)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Rossi, Hugh|
|Durant, Tony||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rost, Peter|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Eggar, Timothy||Loveridge, John||St. John Stevas, Rt Hon Norman|
|Elliott, Sir William||Luce, Richard||Scott, Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Lyell, Nicholas||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||McCrindle, Robert||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Fairgrieve, Russell||Macfarlane, Neil||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Faith, Mrs Sheila||MacGregor, John||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Farr, John||MacKay, John (Argyll)||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)|
|Fell, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)||Shersby, Michael|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Silvester, Fred|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||McQuarrie, Albert||Sims, Roger|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Madei, David||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)||Major, John||Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marland, Paul||Speed, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Marlow, Tony||Speller, Tony|
|Forman, Nigel||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Spence, John|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Norman||Marten, Neil (Banbury)||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Fox, Marcus||Mates, Michael||Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Maude, Rt Hon Angus||Squire, Robin|
|Fraser, Peter (South Angus)||Mawby, Ray||Stainton, Keith|
|Fry, Peter||Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Gardiner George (Reigate)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Stanley, John|
|Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)||Mayhew, Patrick||Steen, Anthony|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Mellor, David||Stevens, Martin|
|Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)||Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Stokes, John|
|Gorst, John||Mills, Peter (West Devon)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Gow, Ian||Miscampbell, Norman||Tapsell, Peter|
|Gower, Sir Raymond||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Moate, Roger||Tebbit, Norman|
|Gray, Hamish||Molyneaux, James||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Greenway, Harry||Monro, Hector||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret|
|Grieve, Percy||Montgomery, Fergus||Thompson, Donald|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)||Moore, John||Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)||Morgan, Geraint||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Grist, Ian||Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|Grylls, Michael||Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)||Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)||Trippler, David|
|Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)||Mudd, David||Trotter, Neville|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Murphy, Christopher||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Myles, David||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Hannam, John||Neale, Gerrard||Viggers, Peter|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Needham, Richard||Wakeham, John|
|Hastings, Stephen||Nelson, Anthony||Waldegrave, Hon William|
|Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael||Neubert, Michael||Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)|
|Hawksley, Warren||Newton, Tony||Waller, Gary|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Nott, Rt Hon John||Walters, Dennis|
|Heddle, John||Onslow, Cranley||Ward, John|
|Henderson, Barry||Osborn, John||Watson, John|
|Haseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hicks, Robert||Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)||Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.||Parkinson, Cecil||Wheeler, John|
|Hill, James||Parris, Matthew||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)||Patten, Christopher (Bath)||Whitney, Raymond|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Patten, John (Oxford)||Wickenden, Keith|
|Hooson, Tom||Pattie, Geoffrey||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Hordern, Peter||Pawsey, James||Wilkinson, John|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)||Penhaligon, David||Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)|
|Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Percival, Sir Ian||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Wolfson, Mark|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Pink, R. Bonner||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Hurd, Hon Douglas||Pollock, Alexander|
|Irvine, Charles (Cheltenham)||Porter, George||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)||Mr. Carol Mather and|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Mr. David Waddington.|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Prior, Rt Hon James|
|Abse, Leo||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Moyle, Rt Hon Roland|
|Adams, Allen||George, Bruce||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Allaun, Frank||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John||Newens, Stanley|
|Anderson, Donald||Golding, John||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Gourlay, Harry||Ogden, Eric|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ernest||Graham, Ted||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Grant, George (Morpeth)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Ashton, Joe||Grant, John (Islington C)||Owen, Rt Hon Dr David|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Barnell, Guy (Greenwich)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Park, George|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joef (Heywood)||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith||Pendry, Tom|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Haynes, Frank||Prescott, John|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||Price, Christopher (Lewisham West)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Heffer, Eric S.||Race, Reg|
|Bradley, Tom||Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)||Richardson, Jo|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Home Robertson, John||Roberts, Allan (Bootle)|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Homewood, William||Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)|
|Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)||Hooley, Frank||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)|
|Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)||Horam, John||Robertson, George|
|Buchan, Norman||Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Huckfleld, Les||Rodgers, Rt Hon William|
|Campbell, Ian||Hudson Davies, Gwitym Ednyfed||Rooker, J. W.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Roper, John|
|Cant, R. B.||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)||Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Janner, Hon Greville||Ryman, John|
|Cartwright, John||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Sandelson, Neville|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Johnson, Walter (Derby South)||Sever, John|
|Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)||Sheerman, Barry|
|Cohen, Stanley||Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Sheldon, Rt Kon Robert (A'ton-u-L)|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Short, Mrs Renée|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kaufman Rt Hon Gerald||Silkin. Rt Hon John (Deptford)|
|Cook, Robin F.||Kerr, Russell||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Cowans, Harry||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Craigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)||Kinnock, Neil||Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)|
|Crowther, J. S.||Lambie, David||Snape, Peter|
|Cryer, Bob||Lamborn, Harry||Soley, Clive|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Lamond, James||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cunningham, George (Islington S)||Leighton, Ronald||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)||Stott, Roger|
|Davidson, Arthur||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Strang, Gavin|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Lofthouse, Geoffrey||Straw, Jack|
|Davies, I for (Gower)||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Davis, Terry (Brm'ham, Stechford)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)|
|Deakins, Eric||Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Dempsey, James||McCartney, Hugh||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Dewar, Donald||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)|
|Dixon, Donald||McElhone, Frank||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Dobson, Frank||McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Tilley, John|
|Dormand, Jack||McKelvey, William||Torney, Tom|
|Douglas, Dick||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Urwin, Rt Hon Tom|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Maclennan, Robert||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Dubs, Alfred||McMahon, Andrew||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)|
|Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)||McNally, Thomas||Watkins, David|
|Dunnett, Jack||McNamara, Kevin||Weetch, Ken|
|Eadie, Alex||McWilliam, John||wellbeloved, James|
|Eastham, Ken||Magee, Bryan||Welsh, Michael|
|Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)||Marks, Kenneth Marshall,||White, Frank R. (Bury &Radcliffe)|
|Ellis, Tom(Wrexham)||David (Gl'sgow, Sheltles'n)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|English, Michael||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Ennals, Rt Hon David||Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)||Whitlock, William|
|Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Maxton, John||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Ewing, Harry||Maynard, Miss Joan||Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Faulds Andrew||Meacher, Michael||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Field, Frank||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Winnick, David|
|Flannery, Martin||Mikardo, Ian||Woodall, Alec|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)||Young, David (Bolton East)|
|Forrester, John||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)|
|Foster, Derek||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Foulkes, George||Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Mr. James Tinn and|
|Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)||Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)||Mr. Joseph Dean.|
|Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald||Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)|
|Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Morton, George|