HC Deb 28 January 1959 vol 598 cc1039-40
4. Mrs. McLaughlin

asked the Secretary of State for Air if a decision has now been reached on the type of aircraft to be used as a successor to the Beverley.

11. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Secretary of State for Air when a decision will be made on the provision of a long distance freighter for the Royal Air Force.

93. Mr. Peyton

asked the Minister of Defence what proposals he has for the provision of a long-range freighter aircraft for Royal Air Force Transport Command.

Mr. Ward

I will, with permission, answer together this Question, Question No. 11 and Question No. 93 addressed to the Minister of Defence, to which I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence will be making a statement on this question shortly.

Mrs. McLaughlin

Surely the Minister is aware that this procrastination in taking a decision upon a successor to the Beverley is causing grave concern throughout the aircraft industry, especially those members of it, such as Messrs. Short Brothers and Harland, who believe that they have the answer in regard to the successor to the Beverley? Surely the time has come to take a firm stand and come to a decision, and to honour those agreements which we believe are to be made, so that the aircraft industry may get on with the job and not be left waiting and wondering for months to come.

Mr. Ward

I have said that my right hon. Friend will be making a statement shortly. This is a matter which we have had to consider very carefully. They are very expensive aeroplanes, and we cannot afford to make a mistake.

Mr. Chetwynd

What is causing the delay? Why cannot a decision be made at this stage? Is it a fact that unless a decision to taken soon, we shall be well into the 1960s before we have any aircraft that is capable of long-distance freight carriage?

Mr. Ward

I have already said that the decision will be made soon.

Mr. Peyton

Mine is the third Question, No. 93, and I hope that it may remain on the Paper. I deferred it particularly because of the absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence.

Mr. de Freitas

Does the Minister recognise that this continued delay, besides having an effect upon the Fighting Services, is playing into the hands of the American aircraft manufacturers, who will have the aircraft ready at the time we want them?

Mr. Ward

We are bearing all these matters very much in mind.

Mr. Strachey

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that from the Army's point of view also, there is great urgency for this aircraft? It is not merely the question of the production of the aircraft It is badly needed for the Army.

Mr. Ward

This is one of the matters that we have had to consider carefully. We have been working closely with the War Office concerning it. It is no good having an aircraft that will not carry what the Army wants it to carry.