HC Deb 23 June 1965 vol 714 cc1752-4
34. Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will allot the three prototype TSR2's to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough so that it can carry out further tests on them.

48. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make the three completed TSR2 aircraft available to the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough for test flying.

50. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Minister of Aviation what plans have been made to use the prototype TSR2 for research purposes at Farnborough.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Two of the three TSR2s which have been completed will be used for ground tests at the Royal Aircraft Establishment; the third will be used for a programme of research on engine ground running noise in aid of the Concord.

Sir Ian Orr-Ewing

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was very deep resentment on this side of the House and in many other quarters at the manner in which he announced the fact that the TSR2 flying programme was not to be permitted, in a Written Answer on the day the House rose for the Whitsun Recess? We should like to know whether he really considered, on its merits, the case for collecting the maximum amount of data concerning this aircraft. As was asked in earlier Questions, would it not strengthen his hand in negotiations with the United States if the right hon. Gentleman continued to try to obtain the maximum amount of data from these first-class aircraft, which are unique in the world?

Mr. Jenkins

I noticed that the hon. Member and one or two of his hon. Friends expressed resentment at the form of the announcement, and I thought that this was entirely misplaced. Hon. Members opposite would carry more conviction in the substance of their objections if they did not object so frequently to the form in which announcements are made. I had no opportunity of answering Oral Questions until today, and it would have been quite wrong to hold up an announcement, for which the firms and others were waiting, for three weeks after the decision was taken, in order to announce it in an Oral Answer. As for the substance of the matter, I have been most anxious to get the greatest possible research value out of these aircraft without incurring excessive costs. This I believe we have now done. The approximate cost of the programme for the two R.A.E. aircraft will be about £20,000. Had we gone in for a flying programme—the results of which, I am advised, would have been very limited—the cost would have been at least £2 million, and in certain circumstances might have risen well above £5 million.

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this aircraft has performed better and fulfilled its promise at a much earlier stage than other aircraft? Is it not thoroughly illogical to consign it to tests on the ground? For the sake of £2 million, surely he will think again?

Mr. Jenkins

No, Sir. If hon. Members wish to reopen the TSR2 decision, that is another matter, but, if they wish to gain real research experience, my advice was that it was not worth £2 million and that it might well have been more. I am not able to take this cavalier attitude to £2 million of public money which, apparently, the hon. Member can.

Mr. Royle

Is the Minister aware that there is grave concern in the R.A.F. and the Services about when the Minister will announce the order for the replacement of the TSR2, namely, the F111? Is the Minister going to rat on his pledge on this, as the Government ratted on their pledge at the General Election on the TSR2?

Mr. Jenkins

There is no pledge on which to rat.

Mr. Maude

Could the right hon. Gentleman say what the test programme on this aircraft at the R.A.E. will involve? Will it involve testing the reconnaissance equipment which might be useful in the F111? Was there ever any suggestion of flying tests being carried out through the R.A.E., and, if so, at what cost?

Mr. Jenkins

The exact details of the R.A.E. programme have not yet been worked out, but reconnaissance equipment, where there is a good prospect of using it elsewhere, can mostly be tested elsewhere. The carrying out of a flying programme at the Royal Aircraft Establishment did not appear practicable.