§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Robert Atkins)
My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I met the aerospace Ministers of France, the Federal Republic of Germany and Spain in Toulouse on 15 December 1988. Representatives of Airbus Industrie and the industrial partners of that consortium were also present.
§ Mr. Jack
In the course of those discussions, did my hon. Friend consider the prospects for Airbus Industrie, its organisation and finance up to the year 2000? Did he discuss prospects for orders from Braniff Airways? His answer will be of immense interest to aerospace workers in the north-west of England.
§ Mr. Atkins
My hon. Friend would be surprised if we had not discussed the prospects for Airbus Industrie. I am particularly pleased with the Braniff order, which takes up the original Pan Am order of 50 A320s, with an option on a further 50. That is exceptionally good news because they will use the V2500 international aero-engine thereby creating a great deal of work for many people in Barnoldswick in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee), the Under-Secretary of State for Employment, together with the work that has been done in our respective constituencies.
§ Mr. Atkins
We have devoted considerable time at ministerial and consortium member level to ensure the future of Airbus Industrie in the run-up to the turn of the century to provide an excellent aeroplane at the right price. We hope that it will continue to compete properly with Boeing throughout the world. Like myself, my hon. Friend has many constituents who are making parts of the A320. It is important to them that the aircraft continues to be a success, so the reorganisation of Airbus Industrie is extremely important. We shall keep our attention on it for the foreseeable future.
§ Mr. Cryer
Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient investment is being provided by the Government to firms such as Rolls-Royce to provide a range of engines that will compete with the whole range of production by, for example, GEC and Pratt and Whitney? Is it not disturbing 319 that, while we are prepared to invest £7 billion in the European fighter aircraft, it seems to be at the expense of the neglect of the civil aircraft industry? Is it not important to develop the range of engines and the Airbus range of planes to match Boeing, particularly when British Airways seems to be handing over the whole of its fleet to Boeing sales managers? Should not the Government try to persuade British Airways to have at least part of its fleet manufactured by Airbus?
§ Mr. Atkins
The hon. Gentleman raises many questions, as is his wont. The majority of British Airways airliners use Rolls-Royce engines. That is of benefit to Rolls-Royce employees throughout the country. In addition, Boeing aircraft have substantial British subcontract work—not least Shorts, for example, which does an enormous amount. All in all, there is a great commitment by Boeings to the British aerospace industry, and vice versa. Long may that be so.
§ Mr. Colvin
What decisions did the meeting to which my hon. Friend referred make about the recommendations of the independent committee that was set up to discuss the future of Airbus Industrie? The so-called committee of wise men recommended, first, a new streamlined supervisory board; secondly, a new executive board; and, thirdly, the appointment of a managing director and finance director. Those people will make Airbus Industrie more accountable to the people whom we represent—the taxpayers—and make it easier for Airbus Industrie to agree terms with possible American partners on the next generation of long-haul aircraft.
§ Mr. Atkins
As the chairman of the Conservative Back Bench Committee on these matters, my hon. Friend speaks with great authority. He recently went to Toulouse to explore further developments. As I said earlier, we are working extremely hard to ensure that Airbus Industrie is reorganised so that there is a finance director. The first decision that we took last December was to appoint Dr. Friderichs as chairman of the supervisory board. We are pleased with him. He is a German gentleman with considerable expertise and experience. We have asked him to report to us as soon as he possibly can on how the rest of the board should be structured, with particular reference to a British finance director.