HC Deb 23 February 1959 vol 600 cc788-9
2. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply if a decision has yet been made regarding the future of the Swallow aircraft.

9. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Supply what inquiries have been received from home or abroad as to the military potentialities of the variable geometry aircraft.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Aubrey Jones)

I have made an agreement with the United States authorities and with Vickers for a joint research programme designed to prove the potentialities and practicability of the Swallow concept of variable geometry. A series of tests and engineering studies will be undertaken, partly at Vickers, partly at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, and partly in American Government research facilities. The programme will make use of the considerable work already done by the Americans in this field. The Government will be contributing part of the cost of the work undertaken at Vickers. Until the results of this programme are known, it is impossible to say whether the development of an operational aircraft could be justified, though there is a lively military interest in the possibilities of variable geometry. I am satisfied that the agreement with the United States adequately safeguards this country's military and commercial rights and interests.

Mr. Mason

That seems to be a most encouraging reply. Can the Minister say precisely what our cost will be towards this project, and secondly, whether any talks have taken place about the building of the aircraft, whether it will be done in America or in this country?

Mr. Jones

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, any work undertaken within Government establishments would be entirely covered by finance from Her Majesty's Government. For the rest, the Government propose to contribute half of the expenditure incurred by Vickers. The construction of an aircraft is at the moment a hypothetical question, but the intention is to look at the matter after completion of the research study. However, if there were a decision to go ahead with the construction of an aircraft, I am satisfied that the construction would be undertaken in this country.

Mr. de Freitas

The Minister has referred to the American interest in this project. Will he undertake that our European allies will also be kept aware of the military potentialities of this aircraft, because we have recently lost to the United States certain military orders which many of us believe should not have been lost?

Mr. Jones

Certainly, Sir.

Mr. Peyton

Does the safeguarding of this country's rights, to which my right hon. Friend has referred, mean that we shall not be in the position of having to pay royalties on the American development of what was originally a British invention? If this is so, my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on a very satisfactory achievement.

Mr. Jones

The boot is really on the other foot. If the Americans wish to make use of some of the knowledge acquired in this country, clearly royalties will be payable to the commercial firm in this country.

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