§ 23. Mr. Edelman
asked the Minister of Aviation what co-operation he gave in promoting the sale of the Trident aircraft in Japan.
§ Mr. Amery
The Hawker Siddeley Group received the full co-operation of the Government Departments concerned in London, of Ministers—members of the Government—who visited Tokyo, and of the Ambassador and his staff. Various explanations have been given of the Japanese airlines' preference for the Boeing 727, but it is, of course, for the customer to decide between the offers made to him. It remains to be seen whether he has chosen well.
§ Mr. Edelman
Is not the Minister aware that when the negotiations for the £12 million Trident contract were at their height the post of air attaché in Tokyo was suppressed in the interests of economy, and that at that time the United States embassy was doing its utmost to promote the sale of the Boeing 727, which was eventually preferred? Does he not consider that this was a false economy? What is he doing to re-establish the position, to ensure that in future the post of air attaché is used to promote the sale of British aircraft?
§ Mr. Amery
I am advised that in this case the number of high-powered salesmen—industrial and political—in Tokyo was such that any change in the establishment of the air attaché network would not have affected it. Questions as to the re-establishment of the post should be directed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air. I can testify from my own recent experience in South America that our air 1156 attachés have the interests of our exports very much in mind, and are promoting them very well.
§ Mr. Snow
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement that there might be many reasons why we lost this order is—with great respect to him—a glimpse of the obvious? He must analyse this situation a great deal more carefully, and be frank with the House. Was our failure in this matter a question of possible slowness of delivery compared with the American companies, or was it a question of credit extension? We must know, in order to analyse the situation. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on the question of the establishment of air attachés, Tokyo is probably one of the best examples of where not to economise on this sort of staff at embassy level.
§ Mr. Amery
On the subject of the analysis, one cannot, of course, arrive with certainty at an answer in these matters, and therefore I think it would be wrong for me to try during Question Time to give all the possible alternative explanations to the House. That would call for a debate more than an Answer to a Question. The question of the air attaché, as I say is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air, and I have no doubt that his attention will be drawn to what the two hon. Gentlemen have said on this matter.
§ Sir J. Eden
Is it not a fact that in this instance all the Government Departments concerned worked extremely closely with the company in making this very great sales effort and that in fact there was no difference at all between the company and the Government Departments? Would he confirm that one difficulty they met was that the aircraft had been tailor-made to meet the requirements of B.E.A. and that these did not conform wholly with the requirements of the Japanese airline?
§ Mr. Amery
I can certainly confirm what my hon. Friend has said. The firm paid tribute to the support it received from the Government. Secondly, I think it is important that hon. Members should be clear, if they are not already, that the Trident which the Japanese were considering was not the same mark of 1157 Trident that B.E.A. has ordered. One reason which made it difficult for us to deliver as quickly as the Japanese would have liked was that new production lines would have to be set up.
§ Lord Balniel
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that the Trident is made in my constituency and that obviously the outcome of the negotiations with Japan are extremely disappointing and a matter of grave concern to my constituents, may I put a supplementary question to the Minister?