HC Deb 18 November 1957 vol 578 cc27-8
49. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Supply what proposals have been made to him by the Hawker Siddeley Group for the construction of a new civil transport aircraft as a private venture by that company; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

The Hawker Siddeley Group, with others, has made proposals for the private venture development of a medium range turbo-jet aircraft to meet a British European Airways requirement. These proposals are still under consideration.

50. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Supply what progress has been made in the study and/or design of a supersonic civil air transport machine; to what extent this work is still being carried forward by a group of British firms; if he is satisfied with the success of this group approach; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. W. J. Taylor

A group of companies, in association with and under the direction of the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough, are making a research study of possible supersonic civil air transport machines. Much preliminary theoretical work has been done, the main experimental work has been planned and certain research models are now being designed and manufactured. My right hon. Friend believes that the group approach to a problem, which in size extends beyond the capacity of any one company, is the right one.

Mr. Beswick

Does not the Minister also accept that the one feature of this industry is uncertainty? We just do not know what is the future for this industry, which a few years ago showed such promise? Can the Minister tell us whether he is taking any positive steps at all to bring about some more definite mergers or amalgamations to enable this industry to tackle the bigger projects that are essential if it is to prosper in future?

Mr. Taylor

The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is not part of the original Question he put down. No single aircraft company in this country has enough technical staff or the facilities to undertake the whole responsibility for research into a project of this size. The potential importance of this project is such that my right hon. Friend decided to proceed with a programme of co-operative research, and certain firms were accordingly entrusted with this responsibility.

Sir A. Harvey

In view of the uncertainty in the industry, affecting both managements and workers, and of the problem of the cost involved in the building, designing and developing of a new aeroplane, will my hon. Friend consider setting up a committee to advise the Government, the industry and all concerned in the country how much this country can afford to spend on this and future projects?

Mr. Taylor

I must have notice of that question.