HC Deb 28 February 1967 vol 742 cc247-9
14. Mr. Dobson

asked the Minister of Technology whether he has completed his study of the economic viability of the airbus project; and whether he will now make a statement.

18. Sir E. Errington

asked the Minister of Technology when he expects a final decision to be made on whether to go ahead with the European airbus project.

Mr. Stonehouse

The study of the economic viability of the airbus project has not yet been completed. Officials from the countries concerned are meeting again today on this question. A further Ministerial meeting has been agreed for next month with a view to preparing a report on which Governments can reach decisions.

Mr. Dobson

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he bear in mind the need for a decision on this project as soon as possible, because it is used as a balance in the industry for the military projects, most of which have now been agreed for a long time ahead? Will he give an indication, if he can, of when the final decision by his Ministry might be announced?

Mr. Stonehouse

I agree that it is important to try to reach a decision quickly, because the sooner a decision can be reached and a project study gone into, the sooner we can build this aircraft and, we hope, sell it effectively. A number of very important points have to be clarified. I hope that a final decision can be made about the middle of next month.

Sir E. Errington

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that if greater delay occurs with this project we may very well miss the boat, in the sense that the Americans will seize the opportunity to build an aircraft of a similar character?

Mr. Stonehouse

We are against delay. We want to reach a decision soon. We want to ensure that this project will be a worth-while one in the broad economic sense to the economy of the United Kingdom.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will the Minister confirm that, for our part at least, we are determined that this particular aircraft, if it goes ahead, should have Rolls Royce engines?

Mr. Stonehouse

There is another Question on this subject.

29. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Minister of Technology what discussions he has held with Ministers of European countries, concerning the engine for the proposed European airbus.

Mr. Stonehouse

The choice of engine, which we regard as being of great importance, has been a central issue in the international discussions about a European airbus. I discussed the matter with the French and German Ministers at the meeting in Bonn on 27th January, and we shall be returning to the subject during our next discussion.

Mr. Lubbock

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the RB207 will be quieter, more economical and cheaper than the Pratt and Witney JT9D? On what contractual basis is the development of this engine proceeding at the moment? Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that it is not being held back because of delays in the decision on the airbus as a whole?

Mr. Stonehouse

I confirm that the development of the RB207 is not being held back in any way. We are providing assistance to Rolls for it. I am glad to take this opportunity of saying that Rolls Royce development in jet engines has been absolutely superb and it must, therefore, be seriously considered for engining the European airbus if Europe is to remain in the forefront of this advanced technology.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Reports coming from Europe indicate that some of the interested parties are insisting on the JT9 being used, which is at the end of its development life. Will my hon. Friend confirm that it is essential that we have the Rolls Royce engine in this project, with a long development life ahead?

Mr. Stonehouse

I agree that the Rolls Royce engine has tremendous advantages. The snag is that the whole of the research and development costs, unless they go into an American aircraft as well, would have to be born in Europe. But I believe that, despite that disadvantage, in view of the larger thrust of the RB207 and its future stretch in any airframe with which it is associated, it is important for it to be considered.

Mr. R. Carr

Will the Minister assure the House that he will see that full attention is given not only to the tremendously important technological value of the engine but to the noise factor, which is becoming increasingly important, particularly on the European continent?

Mr. Stonehouse

My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is very concerned about that. Rolls Royce have done a great deal of research to try to reduce the noise, and I believe that it has had some success.

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