HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc486-8
14. Mr. Kenneth Lewis

asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement regarding the future development in association with France of the airbus project.

20. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on his talks last week at Bonn with French and German Ministers about the airbus and what progress was made in the matter.

Mr. Stonehouse

When I met the French Minister of Equipment and the Federal German Minister of Economics in Bonn last week to discuss this project we agreed that a successful airbus would be an important step towards further technological and economic co-operation in Europe but that further information was required on a number of points before a decision on the future of the project could be reached. Officials were charged with presenting a report on the further information required which the three Ministers could consider in the middle of March.

Mr. Lewis

Does not the Minister think that the doubts which exist on this project really lead to the conclusion that it is better to drop it and concentrate on other things so that we do not spread our activities too widely?

Mr. Stonehouse

No. This project could be a very successful one and ensure that Britain remained in the subsonic aircraft field for the next 15 to 20 years. I give this project a high priority, but I believe that it is essential that we should be assured of its economic viability before going into it. The whole purpose of the officials' report is to get clarification on this point.

Mr. Rankin

Is the Minister aware that the achievement of agreement on this project will be warmly welcomed by all those who are interested in the commercial advance of aviation, but does he also realise that, if this has to be a commercial success, it is essential now that we should start at London Airport creating the appropriate type of pier which will be necessary to handle people when this airbus is in use?

Mr. Stonehouse

The last part of the question is for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. On the first part, the economic viability will depend on the extent to which European airlines are going to commit themselves to buying the airbus when it is completed.

Mr. Lubbock

Unless this project is proceeded with in the near future, the Americans are very likely to have an aircraft which will be sold to the airlines of Europe in competition with the European airbus. Is not the timing vital, therefore? Will the Minister say what further information is required by the Ministers?

Mr. Stonehouse

The main points are information on airline requirements and intentions, the financial participation by the aircraft industry, and the question of the engine choice. We want information on those matters. I agree that we want to make decisions as soon as possible in order to get on with it if we are going to do it.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will the Minister confirm that a vital element in the construction of this aircraft is the engines? Could he indicate whether Rolls-Royce has requested any special assistance for the development of large engines for this project?

Mr. Stonehouse

This is one of the points which we have under consideration. I agree that it would be very important, if we go ahead with the airbus development, to see that Rolls-Royce has an essential part in it.