HC Deb 04 August 1965 vol 717 cc1685-6
28. Lord Balniel

asked the Minister of Aviation what are the reasons for the delay in the order by British European Airways for the Trident II E; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The Government have approved a decision by B.E.A. to order 15 more Trident aircraft, bringing its total order for these aircraft up to 39. The further aircraft are to be Trident II Es and are for delivery from 1968 onwards. They will have somewhat greater capacity and range than B.E.A.'s existing Tridents and are particularly suitable for B.E.A.'s longer routes.

Lord Balniel

Is the Minister aware that this will he welcome news indeed to the 6,000 people in Hatfield who work at the Hawker Siddeley works and who are supremely confident that this aircraft will prove as successful as its predecessor? Would the right hon. Gentleman answer two questions? First, is he aware that because of the delay which has taken place so far there is going to be a gap in the production lines between the ending of production of the Trident I and the commencement of production of the Trident II E? Will he accelerate the signing of the contract and so keep this gap as small as possible? Secondly, to what extent are the Government backing this deal financially?

Mr. Jenkins

I am grateful to the noble Lord for his first remarks. I agree that this aircraft has very good export prospects indeed. No undue delay has occurred in proving this aircraft, in view of the importance of the order, and I will endeavour to minimise any gap which may exist to the greatest possible extent, whether by expediting the placing of the full contract or by other measures which it might be possible to take. To answer the noble Lord's question about financial backing, the aircraft will secure from the Government launching aid along the pattern which has become normal in the last couple of years, but I would rather not go into greater detail on this matter now.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is this not about the same configuration of aircraft as the one which de Havilland originally wanted to produce and which B.E.A. originally specified? Is it not the case that Lord Douglas, the Chairman, changed his mind so that the aircraft was produced in a smaller form with no export potential and the whole programme has been delayed? Is it not a fact that now, at long last, we may eventually get the aeroplane which should have been produced and which would have sold abroad had Lord Douglas not sabotaged the whole thing by changing his mind?

Mr. Jenkins

This all goes back a good deal into history, for which I was not responsible. I think that the hon. Gentleman's strictures about Lord Douglas, who ran B.E.A. with signal success for a long period, are uncalled for and unjustified. There are certain important difficulties, but I believe that this aircraft will have a very good future.