HC Deb 18 February 1963 vol 672 cc17-8
27. Mr. McMaster

asked the Minister of Aviation when he expects to place an order for a tactical freighter aircraft to meet the requirement numbered O.R. 351.

28. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now announce particulars of the plans to replace Beverley and Hastings aircraft.

Mr. J. Amery

I expect to make a statement shortly.

Mr. McMaster

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern felt in the aircraft manufacturing industry at the great delay in the project, particularly as over the past weekend alone at Short Bros. and Harland in my constituency more than 200 design staff are being laid off? There is great fear that, if these design men go abroad, this would break up a balanced design and construction unit which is a very valuable part of the industry.

Mr. Amery

I am well aware of the anxiety which is felt in the industry about this whole question, and I hope that it will not be more than a few days now before I give my answer.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Will my right hon. Friend explain that the delay is over the placing of the order for this requirement and is not a matter of considering whether the project should go on or not?

Mi. Amery

I think it would be better if I did not try to anticipate the statement I am going to make, but I am in broad sympathy with what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Paget

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we have been expecting a decision shortly for about four years, and that in that process any replacement becomes obsolete before it even gets on to the drawing board?

Mr. Amery

No. I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is for once on the wrong leg. [Interruption.] I am not saying we are postponing a decision but that the need for a replacement is a proper criterion to adopt. There will be a time by which the Beverley and Hastings aircraft must be replaced. It has not been necessary until now to arrive at a decision, and indeed it has been wise not to have anticipated that decision. In taking the decision we have, of course, to evaluate all the different aspects of this problem and to produce the very best possible replacement. This is the time to do it.