HC Deb 07 March 1951 vol 485 cc430-2
43. Mr. J. Grimston

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Civil Aviation if he will make a statement on the decision not to proceed with the Princess Flying Boat for commercial operation.

Mr. Beswick

Owing to the rapid progress which has been made in the development of the Comet it is now thought likely that the Comet will be better adapted for the needs of civil aviation than the larger flying boats, and accordingly it has been decided that British Overseas Airways Corporation shall not introduce these boats into service However, as my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air said yesterday, the use of the Princess flying boats as military transports is being favourably considered. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply needs the boats for development and experimental purposes, and many lessons of great value to aeronautical science will be learnt from them.

Mr. Grimston

Are not these three aircraft the latest addition to what is regarded as an impressive collection of white elephants?

Mr. Beswick

These three aircraft will perform very useful service in the interests of the nation.

Mr. G. Cooper

Is it not a fact that the operation of the flying boats on the African route during the last period of operation by the B.O.A.C. was. in fact, profitable?

Mr. Beswick

That is not quite accurate, and in any case it has nothing to do with the statement mentioned in the Question which we are now considering.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Which Departmental Vote will bear the cost of developing these flying boats?

Mr. Beswick

It depends upon the eventual user.

Mr. Ralph Morley

Does my hon. Friend recall that he has several times indicated that when these boats come into commission they will be based on Southampton? Can he give a further assurance in that respect?

Mr. Beswick

If my hon. Friend is referring to the possible use by the Royal Air Force he should put his question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Air.

Air Commodore Harvey

Does not the statement show that high executives of the B.O.A.C. have very little knowledge of business, since they ought to have made up their minds on this matter two years ago? Will the hon. Gentleman try to instil some knowledge of business methods into them?

Mr. Beswick

There are considerations which apply now which did not apply two years ago.

Mr. Nicholson

How is the cost being met up to date?

Mr. Beswick

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will put that question down.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Does not the hon. Gentleman think that it would be tragic to lose the "know-how" of making these big flying boats? Unless the Government give proper encouragement is there not a danger of losing this "know-how"?

Mr. Beswick

We have given very considerable encouragement, but hon. Gentlemen opposite are already talking about the financial cost.

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