HC Deb 08 December 1965 vol 722 cc409-11
28. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Aviation when he will publish the conclusions of the market survey which he commissioned on the VC.10/DB265 project; and what action he proposes to take as a result of them.

43 and 44. Mr. Raphael Tuck

asked the Minister of Aviation (1) why the market survey report on the VC.10 Superb has not been made public; and when the details of this report will be known;

(2) when the final decision on whether to support the development of the VC.10 Superb will be made.

48. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he has completed his study of the market survey of the VC.10 Superb; and when he will publish the survey and announce his conclusions.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

As some airlines contributed to the market survey on a confidential basis, I am not free to publish the report. Its conclusions need careful consideration in conjunction with the recommendations of the Plowden Committee and I shall make a statement as soon as possible.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Meantime, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, because of the outstanding success of the VC 10—which is probably the best airliner of its type in the world at present —unless this project is encouraged with our Continental friends, Britain will be out of this race altogether? Will he personally give a lead by saying that the project should be progressed?

Mr. Jenkins

As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, I gave hard evidence in support of the success of the Super VC 10 in the Second Reading debate of the Air Corporations Bill. As for the further project—I have always taken the view that, since very large sums of public money would be involved, I was not prepared to recommend going ahead unless we could see a worth-while market. It is important to be convinced of that, otherwise we will pour public money down the drain.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Even if the public cannot see this Report, does not my right hon. Friend think that Members of Parliament at least are entitled to see it so that they can form a decision on it? Since Middle East Airlines seems now to prefer the British to the American version, will he give favourable consideration to supporting British aircraft and thus avoiding knocking out the British aircraft industry as well as the indebtedness to the Americans, which has to be paid for with hard needed dollars?

Mr. Jenkins

It is not generally very reasonable or easy to publish matters to hon. Members without also publishing them to the public as a whole. On the second point, we are following developments in Middle East Airlines with great interest and hope for a successful outcome. But we have to be assured of a rather wider market than is there represented.

Mr. Lipton

Is my right hon. Friend still not satisfied that there is an adequate and useful market for the VC 10? If that is so as a result of the market survey, why does not he say so? We were promised a decision on this weeks, if not months, ago.

Mr. Jenkins

The House was not promised a decision months ago—there was no question of that. Such a decision requires very careful consideration. As I have said previously, £40 million of public investment would be involved for airframes and several tens of millions of £s more if engines were also to be developed as necessary. I am determined not to support the project unless it is sensible and worth while. If it is sensible and worth while, I shall be glad to go ahead.

Mr. Stainton

Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall how he titillated the interest of the House about this market survey during the Second Reading of the Air Corporations Bill? Will he therefore not reconsider his position, especially bearing in mind his own condemnation of the non-publication of the Corbett Report?

Mr. Jenkins

I am only against publication of reports where there would be a breach of confidence. I may add that the present Government have a very different record in the past year in this regard from that of the previous Administration, at least as far as the aircraft industry is concerned. It is not a question of my willingness or not. The Economist Intelligence Unit conducted the survey with airlines in confidence. I could not go back on that confidence.