§ 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 35 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.
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 36 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. 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.