HC Deb 06 May 1963 vol 677 cc34-6
The Minister of Aviation (Mr. Julian Amery)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House. I should like to make a statement about the light aircraft project known as the Beagle B206.

The House may recall that British Executive arid General Aviation Ltd.— generally known as Beagle—was formed in 1960 as a subsidiary of the Pressed Steel Company. Its purpose was to bring together a number of existing light aircraft manufacturers and to specialise in this field. Among its new projects is the Beagle B206, a light twin-engined executive aircraft which the company has designed to meet both civil and military requirements.

Last year I announced my Department's intention to buy two of these aircraft for evaluation and communications flying. I can now inform the House that the Government have decided, subject to satisfactory contract negotiations, to order the Beagle B206 aircraft in a military version for the Royal Air Force. The aircraft will be used for communications duties at present carried out by Ansons.

Mr. Lee

Will the Minister say whether it is notable that we are to have an order from a firm outside the consortia? For instance—take the Handley Page Herald—we always understood that the announcement made some time ago that membership of the consortia was a sort of condition of Government orders was to remain the policy of the Government. What is the significance of his announcement? The right hon. Gentleman says that two of these aircraft were bought for experimental purposes. What is the size of the order?

Mr. Amery

My right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, in a statement to the House at the time, specifically named the light aircraft industry as a likely extension to the constitution of the two main groups.

It is not the normal practice to quote numbers, but in this case I see no security objection to telling the House that the immediate order under negotiation is about 20.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the Minister give an assurance that tenders for Government contracts for aircraft will be considered on price, delivery, and merit of the product? There should be no binding to any firm or group. All British companies should be considered equally. Further, will the Minister say when this aircraft is due to be delivered?

Mr. Amery

I entirely agree with the premise of my hon. Friend's question, and there was something of a competition before this decision was taken. I cannot at this time make a firm statement about delivery.

Mr. Temple

Will the Minister say what considerations were in his mind when selecting this aircraft as against the de Havilland Dove, which is a product of one of the larger groups?

Mr. Amery

All relevant considerations have been taken into account. The Dove 8 is an excellent aircraft, though larger and rather more expensive than the Beagle B206. It is possible that the Royal Air Force will later require further aircraft to replace the rest of its Ansons, and the Dove is by no means ruled out as part replacement for some of these.

Mr. Wade

So that the industry may have some idea of its prospects, can the Minister say how many of these aircraft will be ordered this year?

Mr. Amery

We are in contract negotiation with the firm, so I cannot specifically say what orders there will be in what month. I have indicated the general scope of the order and the decision that the Government have taken.

Mr. MacDermot

Can the Minister say what kind of engine is to be incorporated in these aircraft?

Mr. Amery

I understand that it is an American engine being made under licence by Rolls-Royce.