HC Deb 11 April 1967 vol 744 cc944-8
4. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Minister of Technology when he will decide which British Airports will be used by the Concord during the period when it is undergoing test flying.

Mr. Stonehouse

The aircraft used for development test flying will be flown from Bristol, where they are being made, or from Government research establishments. There is no intention of using ordinary civil airports during this period.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

As and when further aeroplanes become available and suitable for testing, will the claims of Prestwick be remembered for suitability in testing those aircraft?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am sure that when B.O.A.C. flies this aircraft it will be considering civil airports such as Prestwick for its own flying.

Mr. Molloy

During these tests will the problem of noise be taken into consideration?

Mr. Stonehouse

The problem of noise is very much one of our considerations at all times.

Sir B. Craddock

Can the Minister give any idea of noise level on take-off and landing of the Concord compared with ordinary subsonic jet aircraft?

Mr. Stonehouse

I think it too soon to give any precise account of that.

5. Mr. Brooks

asked the Minister of Technology what is the latest estimate of the cost of intramural work undertaken as part of the research and development programme for the Concord project.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn)

On the basis of an allocation of costs that must be to some extent arbitrary, about £30 million for the United Kingdom.

I am now considering whether or rat intra-mural costs on projects work should be identified and published.

Mr. Brooks

Is it not rather late in the day to be given this figure of further substantial escalation in the cost of Concord? Will my right hon. Friend indicate whether or not it is still hoped to recoup up to one-third of the cost by a levy on sales?

Mr. Benn

This is not an escalation, it is the grouping together of intramural and extramural costs. The second question is a separate one.

25. Mr. Brooks

asked the Minister of Technology what facilities are available to the British Government for gaining access to the books of the firms responsible for constructing the Anglo-French Concord; and whether such facilities are equally available in the case of French firms engaged in its construction.

Mr. Stonehouse

The British Government's contracts with the British contractors have throughout given us the right to ascertain by inspection of their books the costs actually incurred. The French Government have similar rights as regards their contractors.

Mr. Brooks

Does my hon. Friend accept that there has so far been no official and precise figure given even of the number of Olympus 593 engines included in the £530 million research and development programme for the Concord? Are discussions now taking place with the French Government about the whole problem of cost-sharing and post-costing?

Mr. Stonehouse

We are in constant touch with the French with a view to improving the procedures for the development of the Concord, and I am satisfied that the development is going extremely well.

26. Mr. Barnes

asked the Minister of Technology what arrangements he has made with the companies building the Concord supersonic airliner for reviewing the actual cost of the project at regular intervals.

31. Mr. Moonman

asked the Minister of Technology what inquiries have been made of the Bristol Siddeley company by the Government on the cost of the individual operations for the Concord engine.

Mr. Stonehouse

Under the contractual arrangements for the development of Concord, the companies provide regular returns of costs in detail and these are examined by my Department.

Mr. Barnes

Does my hon. Friend agree that the method of costing Concord and the huge escalation in costs which has taken place in the past, just as much as the controversial nature of the aircraft itself, are responsible for the widespread opposition there is to Concord? If we are really stuck with Concord, will he, at least, give an assurance that it will not now be possible for there to be a Concord profits scandal?

Mr. Stonehouse

There cannot be a profits scandal because we are paying only on costs incurred.

Mr. Moonman

As the Concord is a large and expensive undertaking, will my hon. Friend say how much the engines will cost, accepting that we need some reassurance on this important question?

Mr. Stonehouse

Of the total research and development expenditure, about £180 million will be incurred on the development of the Olympus.

Mr. A. Royle

Will the Minister give a firm assurance that there is no intention to cancel this project at any time?

Mr. Stonehouse

The hon. Gentleman has another Question down about the Concord, and I prefer to wait till then.

Hon. Members


Mr. Royle

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As my other Question on the Concord is much further down the Order Paper, will the Minister now answer the question which I have put to him?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order.

Mr. Royle

But will—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will not be addressed on false points of order.

28. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Technology whether it is still the intention of Her Majesty's Government to see Concord brought into airline service, particularly with the British Overseas Airways Corporation.

39 and 45. Mr. A. Royle

asked the Minister of Technology (1) if he will publish a report on the economic and technical statistics of the Concord airliner;

(2) if he will make a statement on the progress of the Concord.

Mr. Stonehouse

With permission, I will answer Question No. 28 and the two Questions asked by the hon. Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle).

The Government's intention remains as stated last July during the French Prime Minister's visit—that we shall proceed with Concord while maintaining constant scrutiny of the financial aspects. This scrutiny is being maintained but it is not usual to publish internal reports. Construction of prototypes is well advanced and 72 delivery positions have now been reserved by the world's airlines.

Mr. Hastings

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that statements attributed to Sir Giles Guthrie in Australia last week were unfortunate, to say the least, that all the necessary or possible information on the project has been made available to customers, that they could not expect any more at this stage, and that they are perfectly satisfied?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am not responsible for the statement made by the Chairman of B.O.A.C. It is too early for airlines to be given full details of production aircraft.

Mr. Royle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are reports that the Treasury has been bringing pressure to bear on his Ministry for cancellation of the project for financial reasons? Will he deny those reports and confirm that there is no question of cancelling the project for financial reasons?

Mr. Stonehouse

I do not know anything about reports. I confirm what I said in my original Answer. We shall proceed with Concord.

Mr. Rankin

Is my hon. Friend aware that the Government's reaffirmation of their continued confidence in Concord is very welcome? Will he now be able to go ahead with a production order at an early date?

Mr. Stonehouse

There is no hold-up in the financing of production, and the development of the aircraft is going extremely well.

Sir A. V. Harvey

In the crucial stage of the development of the Concord will the hon. Gentleman direct the Chairman of B.O.A.C. not to say anything which can denigrate the project in the eyes of the world's airlines operators?

Mr. Stonehouse

Statements by the Chairman of B.O.A.C. are the responsibility of that individual himself.

Mr. R. Carr

Can the Minister confirm that neither he nor any of his right hon. Friends are withholding any report which is unfavourable to Concord, and information which is not available to the House?

Mr. Stonehouse

It is in the nature of this development that there will be a large number of internal reports on the development of the aircraft. It would be most unwise for every one of those reports to be publicised abroad.