HC Deb 08 July 1964 vol 698 cc382-5
6. Mr. Pounder

asked the Minister of Aviation what steps have been taken, or are envisaged, regarding the subcontracting of design work in connection with the Concord project to British aircraft concerns other than the British Aircraft Corporation.

Mr. Amery

There are no plans to sub-contract work on the design of the airframe. In many cases, however, subcontracts to other firms for the supply of equipment will involve design work.

Mr. Pounder

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask him whether he would agree, particularly in the light of his recent visit to the Belfast aircraft factory—which visit was very much appreciated—and in view of the very large sums of Government money being poured into the Concord project, that there may be a case, either now or at some stage in the future, for some sub-contracting of design work to the firm, bearing in mind particularly what my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) said just now about the acknowledged need for retaining a design team?

Mr. Amery

I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that the essential thing with the Concord is to get on with it quickly in view of possible foreign competition and that any subdivision of design work could lead to delay.

13. Mr. Brockway

asked the Minister of Aviation which town in South-East England has been selected as an experimental area to judge the effect of the noise and reverberation of the sound-barrier-breaking Concord airliner on the physical and psychological reactions of the population.

Mr. Marten

No decision to carry out an exercise of this kind has been made.

Mr. Brockway

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, when a decision is reached, he will arrange for soundproofing of hospitals, schools, old people's homes, and houses immediately under the route, and secondly, whether he can dispel the rumour that the town of Slough, which is the nearest town west of London Airport, and is on the Atlantic route, is being made a guinea pig for this experiment?

Mr. Marten

No decision has been arrived at. The article in the Press, which I did see and to which I think the hon. Member is referring, was lacking in strict accuracy. The proposal for soundproofing is a different question, and if the hon. Member will put down a question about it I will endeavour to answer it.

Mr. Speir

In this connection, may I ask my hon. Friend who it is in his Department who authorises the breaking of the sound barrier, and what control there is over the sound barrier not being broken without permission?

Mr. Marten

I authorise the breaking of the sound barrier, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not broken by any aircraft under our control without permission.

Mr. Costain

Does my hon. Friend realise that the article in the Press has caused concern to towns on the southeast coast, and will he give an assurance that before any experiments are likely to be carried out, plenty of notice will be given to those concerned?

Mr. Marten

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Lee

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some of us would not agree that there was any question of permitting a guinea pig operation on any town in Britain? In a comparatively small island in which towns are so closely interconnected, it would be a very different proposition from Oklahoma or places of that sort. Will he give an undertaking that there will be no question of any town being made a guinea pig in this respect?

Mr. Marten

No, Sir.

23. Sir L. Heald

asked the Minister of Aviation what progress has now been made with the Concord project; when the first aircraft is due to fly; and if he will make a statement.

38. Sir B. Janner

asked the Minister of Aviation what is the present estimated date by which he expects the Concord aircraft to be in commercial service; and what is the present state of firm orders for this aircraft.

40. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a further statement on the progress of the Concord project.

Mr. Amery

The first flight of the Concord is expected in 1967. Entry into airline service is forecast for 1971. Provisional orders for the Concord so far number 43. The British and French Governments have approved the modifications to the original design proposed by the Companies on 6th May. These provide for the up-rating of the engine and extension of the wing area and will result in increased range and payload.

I have of course kept in close touch with the development work on the Concord in this country. I have also recently visited, in company with M. Jacquet, the French Minister of Transport, the works of Sud Aviation, the main contractor for the French share of the airframe, and of SNECMA, which is contributing to the development of the Olympus 593 engine.

Co-operation between the French and British teams is excellent. The development programme is proceeding according to plan. The House will wish to know that an experimental version of the Olympus 593 engine had its first run at the weekend three months ahead of schedule.

Sir L. Heald

I thank my right hon. Friend for that interesting and encouraging statement. Does he agree that if Britain is to be in a position to take full advantage of the opportunities for world leadership in aviation which will be provided by the Concord development, the essential condition is the continued existence of a British aircraft industry which is strong, prosperous and, above all, confident? Will he keep this important consideration before his colleagues, particularly during the discussions about the future of the VC10?

Mr. Amery

I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that these considerations are not only very much in my mind but also in the minds of my colleagues.

Mr. Cronin

Is there not some evidence that the original figures given by the right hon. Gentleman for the Concord project were a grievous underestimate? Could not he, either now or at an early opportunity, give revised figures for the total cost of the project and for our share in it?

Mr. Amery

There can be no doubt that the modifications the two Governments have agreed to will considerably increase the cost of the Concord. The figures I have are that the estimate will rise to about £140 million for the United Kingdom.

Mr. Longhlin

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many aircraft it will be necessary to have ordered in order to make this project anything like an economic proposition? Is he satisfied that the French nationalised aircraft industry is efficient enough to carry this project through?

Mr. Amery

I have no criticisms to make of our French colleagues, who are working admirably and closely with us. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir. W. Churchill) once remarked, the Almighty did not see fit to make Frenchmen in the image of Englishmen, so perhaps we proceed by different paths to the same objective.

Mr. Loughlin

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question? I asked him whether he could give an estimate of the number of Concords required to be ordered to make the project an economic proposition.

Mr. Amery

This will, of course, depend on the price ultimately charged. The present concept is that the cost will be about £5 million an aircraft.

Mr. Cronin

When did the right hon. Gentleman know of the new estimate which is nearly double the one he previously gave?

Mr. Amery

When the French Minister and I finally reviewed and agreed the modifications last weekend.