HC Deb 13 July 1959 vol 609 cc5-6
6 and 7. Mr. Beswick

asked the Minister of Supply (1) what are the Service requirements for the Avro 748 and the Herald aircraft;

(2) for what period he plans to have the Avro 748 aircraft flown on proving flights; what is the total estimated cost of these proving flights; who will meet these costs; and what is the planned use of these machines when the programme of proving flights is completed.

Mr. Aubrey Jones

There is no United Kingdom requirement for the Avro 748 or the Herald at the present time, but interest has been expressed overseas in both aircraft and it is considered that their commercial prospects would be improved by an early demonstration of their efficiency in regular operation on normal services. Negotiations have therefore been opened to this end with the manufacturers and with United Kingdom operators, but until these are further advanced I cannot give details of the arrangements. The cost to Her Majesty's Government is at present estimated to be about £750,000 for each type.

Mr. Beswick

The Minister has not answered the Question I put to him about the cost of development. He has ignored that question altogether. Can he not give any estimate at all as to what the cost of development is going to be? If he cannot give that estimate, why has he spent taxpayers' money already for six aircraft for which there is no requirement in this country?

Mr. Jones

It is not for me to dispute with the hon. Gentleman what he put down in his Question, but to the best of my understanding he did not ask me the cost of development. He asked, roughly, the cost of proving flying, and to that question I think I have given an answer.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in any case the firms making these two aeroplanes have paid for the development themselves—that it is entirely free enterprise money?

Mr. Jones

Yes, I am perfectly aware of that. It has nothing to do with the Question asked me.

Mr. Beswick

May I ask the Minister please to be a little more forthcoming and to try not to be so clever? The phrase I used is the phrase he himself used. It is perfectly true, of course, that in one company on one aircraft the cost of initial development has been borne by that company and that aircraft is now in the air, but since then his Department has placed an order for another three aircraft still on the drawing board and proposes to develop it though he still cannot give any estimate of the cost. Surely that is a curious way of doing business?

Mr. Jones

I think the hon. Gentleman is under a misunderstanding. Both these aircraft are being developed from the resources of the firms themselves. In the absence at the moment of a requirement in this country for these aircraft, I am placing a contract, or I hope to place a contract, with certain United Kingdom operators for proving flying. The cost of that contract, which has nothing to do with development, is estimated to be about £750,000.

Mr. Wigg

While there is some sense in the Government's policy in relation to the Avro 748, inasmuch as the Prime Minister has persuaded Mr. Nehru to order 130, what grounds can there possibly be for spending public money on development of the Herald, for which everybody knows there is not the slightest use now or in the future?

Mr. Jones

As I have said before, interest has been expressed abroad in both these aircraft.