HC Deb 09 July 1962 vol 662 cc959-61
22. Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

asked the Minister of Aviation What is the estimated total design and development cost of the Short Belfast freighter aircraft.

Mr. Woodhouse

In accordance with normal practice, I cannot disclose estimates of 'this kind.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Can my hon. Friend confirm, without disclosing the magnitude of the figure, that it is between a third and a half of the cost which one would normally associate with developing an aircraft of that type? Is this not one of the many advantages which recommends this aircraft for more fields than that merely of British military requirements?

Mr. Woodhouse

I cannot, for the reasons I have already given, confirm my hon. Friend's estimate, but I certainly agree with him that the aircraft is suitable for many kinds of requirements. It is a matter of regret to us that the hopes originally entertained by the firm for foreign civil sales did not materialise.

26. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Aviation what are his plans for the ordering of freighter aircraft to meet the tactical and strategic needs of the armed services over the next five to seven years.

Mr. Woodhouse

As regards tactical aircraft, the Argosy is already entering R.A.F. service and, as the House knows, my right hon. Friend is also ordering a military version of the Avro 748, now known as the Avro 780. The Belfast has been ordered to meet the strategic freighter needs. Proposals for a tactical freighter aircraft as a possible replacement for the Beverley and Hastings are under consideration.

Mr. McMaster

Is my hon. Friend aware that an aeroplane takes six or seven years to develop but that by using the existing types, as recommended in the Defence White Paper—and by the use of advances, such as laminar flow —the Belfast aircraft could be developed and be capable of lifting such heavy loads of Chieftain tanks or carrying 25 tons for 8,000 miles? Would it not be advisable to expedite a decision on the needs of the Army over the next five to seven years so that the planes are ready when the Army needs them?

Mr. Woodhouse

Yes, the potentialities of the Belfast will certainly be very carefully considered on the lines my hon. Friend has suggested. They are being so considered. So, similarly, we have to consider the potentialities of rival aircraft for the same requirements. I think that my hon. Friend can rest assured that there is no danger of the Army's needs not being met in time.

Mr. Cronin

Is it not the case, however, that the R.A.F. simply does not possess at present an efficient strategic freighter aircraft? Will not the Parliamentary Secretary, for that reason, give more attention to this than he has indicated in his previous replies?

Mr. Woodhouse

I think that my previous replies indicated that we are giving close attention to this.

Mrs. McLaughlin

Has the Parliamentary Secretary had any discussions recently with Short Brothers and Harland on this matter? My understanding of the situation from people concerned in the area is that the Belfast aircraft could be developed in very many ways but that the difficulty at the moment is that no one knows what development there should be or what will be required. If my hon. Friend could give some idea on the matter, we should indeed be grateful.

Mr. Woodhouse

I cannot attempt to define the requirements here in the House, but we are in continuous consultation with Short Brothers and Harland.