HC Deb 06 July 1959 vol 608 cc889-90
49. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Supply why there has been undue delay in settling the basic aerodynamic design of the DH121 aircraft; who will bear the cost of these delays; how it will be apportioned between the manufacturer and British European Airways Corporation; when he expects the prototype aircraft to fly; and when deliveries of production aircraft will commence.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

As I informed the hon. Member last week, the DH121 has been proceeding as a private venture project, that is, no finance by my Department has been involved. The specification has therefore been entirely a matter between the customer—B.E.A.—and the manufacturer—Airco.

Liability for costs arising from delay in settling the specification would equally be a matter between the customer and the manufacturer. I am informed that the first flight is expected in late 1961 and that the aim is to start delivery in the autumn of 1963.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does my right hon. Friend agree with the statement made in the Press last week, and in the Select Committee's Report, that this matter was held up for several months by his Ministry? Can we have an assurance that this important development for British industry will not be held up by his Department or any other?

Mr. Jones

I should have thought it was abundantly clear from my first answer that I have no responsibility for the negotiations proceeding between customers and manufacturers on the specification of this aircraft. I have, therefore, no official cognisance of the position.

Mr. Shinwell

I should now like to put the question which you ruled out of order earlier, Mr. Speaker. In view of the allegation of delay contained in the question of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) and the right hon. Gentleman's reply about the state of the industry, will he now answer the question I put to him, on Question No. 47, namely, in view of the position of the aircraft industry would it not be better to order an inquiry?

Mr. Jones

The allegation of delay contained in the Question, if such it be, is entirely without foundation, because I have no responsibility in this matter. As for the larger question raised by my hon. Friend, the state of the aircraft industry is certainly not such as to give rise to any satisfaction in anybody's breast. I would, however, quarrel with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in his suggestion that the best way of dealing with the matter is by instituting an inquiry. Indeed, if the right hon. Gentleman were to put down the appropriate Questions I do not think that I should be proved very far astray in my analysis of the problems posed.