HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1248-51
4. Mr. Peter Walker

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will publish details of the representations he has received from the British aircraft industry on the subject of the Concord project.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

No, Sir.

Mr. Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the White Paper on the Economic Situation, issued by the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in October and containing fierce reflections on the Concord project, together with the more recent announcement of certain American equipment being purchased for the project, have given the impression—wrongly, I hope—that the Government are not really keen on this project? Would not the publication of the reasons—or at least some of them—why they decided to go on with it give far greater confidence?

Mr. Jenkins

The hon. Gentleman is bringing in some very extraneous considerations. We are going ahead with the project and I hope and believe that it will be a success.

5. Mr, Peter Walker

asked the Minister of Aviaton whether he will publish details of the representations he has received from the French Government on the subject of the Concord project.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

No, Sir. The exchanges were confidential.

Mr. Walker

The right hon. Gentleman may think that some of the considerations are extraneous to this problem, but there is a feeling that the Government are half-hearted about the project. Would not the publication of the reasons why the right hon. Gentleman himself decided to go ahead with it benefit the future chances of Concord?

Mr. Jenkins

I have the impression that the hon. Member wishes to debate a decision that we made in January and not to ask for information about what took place.

16. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Aviation what is now the target date for the Concord being in airline service.

43. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Minister of Aviation what are the dates planned with the French Government for the first flight of the prototype and for the completion of the first production Concord; how many aircraft will be ordered by the British Overseas Airways Corporation; and what information he has as to when a firm order will be placed.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The date of flight of the first prototype Concord aircraft is now foreseen as early 1968. We are discussing the development programme and time-scale thereafter with our French partners. Eight aircraft have been reserved for British Overseas Airways Corporation but it is too early for firm orders to be placed.

Mr. Marten

Could the Minister answer the Question, which I think asked when he estimates the Concord will be in airline service? That is the question which I want answered. Secondly, can he say whether everything is being prepared to swing straight into production on this as soon as possible? Thirdly, is the electronics equipment being developed so that it will meet the time when production should begin?

Mr. Jenkins

As I indicated in my Answer, we are discussing with the French the date when it will come into airline service. What we are anxious to do—and I am sure that we carry the hon. Member and the House with us in this—is to get the market. Therefore, an important factor is how close America is behind us. But compatibly with getting the market we do not want to get into a position in which we act without due consideration. But, as I said on 20th January, we are determined not to spend the money and lose the market.

Mr. David Price

Would the Minister confirm or deny the date quoted fairly widely in recent weeks in the aviation Press that we would he in production of the Concord in 1972?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Minister cannot be asked to confirm things in the Press unless he is responsible for them. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can ask whether it is a fact, or something of the kind.

Mr. Price

Is it a fact and also would the Minister confirm that in order to be in production in 1972 the first metal for production has to be cut in 1968?

Mr. Jenkins

We are anxious to be in production at a time which will give us a substantial lead over any American SST. I prefer not to go beyond that at the moment, because this is a matter which we are discussing with our French partners.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

By how many months or years has the mess and muddle which the right hon. Gentleman and the Government made put back the programme?

Mr. Jenkins

I can tell the hon. Gentleman precisely. We have not put it back at all. The programme went ahead during the period of review, and it made remarkably good technical progress during these months.

Mr. Rankin

Can my right hon. Friend say whether there is any prospect of an American competitor to the Concord?

Mr. Jenkins

I am sure my hon. Friend will appreciate that if I cannot answer for the British Press, I cannot answer for the American Government either, but I think that they are in the process of making a decision which may well be announced within the next month.