HC Deb 28 February 1967 vol 742 cc240-2
8. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Technology what sums of money have been voted by the French and British Governments, respectively, for the forward purchase of materials for the Concord programme.

Mr. Stonehouse

The British Government have authorised the placing of orders for certain long-dated materials for the Concord production programme up to a value of £500,000. French procedures differ, but enough finance to avoid any delay in the production programme has been made available.

Mr. Hastings

Is it not the case that the equivalent of £14 million has been recently made available by the French Government to S.N.E.C.M.A. and SudAviation for the development programme and that no corresponding finance has been made available to British contractors? Is it not also true that unless additional moneys are made available by the end of the month there is a real chance that the programme might slip? Will the hon. Gentleman take the occasion to give us an unqualified assurance of his determination that this project will succeed?

Mr. Stonehouse

I cannot confirm or deny the figure the hon. Member quoted as being the French contribution to production financing. All I say is that there is no question of any lack of support on our side holding up the development of this aircraft. As to long-term financing of production items concerned, as my original Answer indicated, we have made a commitment already in regard to expenditure up to half a million pounds, and there is no question of delay in the development of these plans.

Mr. R. Carr

Can the hon. Gentleman deny what I hope were inaccurate reports in a newspaper recently that at a private meeting of a group of hon. Members opposite he said the Government had doubts about Concord and were continuing the project only under pressure from the French?

Mr. Stonehouse

There is no question of the Government holding back the development of Concord in any way. We are supporting the development of Concord and putting all possible help in the way of the firms concerned. My officials have been discussing with the French officials in the last few days, and there is no doubt that the programme is going extremely well. The constant carping by certain hon. Members opposite on this question is of no help at all.

Mr. Rankin

Is not Government support for the Concord manifested by the fact that the second prototype is now well under way at Filton?

Mr. Stonehonse

I am glad to confirm that the second prototype at Bristol is going very well indeed.

20. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will make a farther statement on the future of the Concord project.

Mr. Benn

The development programme is still proceeding satisfactorily, and the first and second prototypes are scheduled to fly in the spring and autumn, respectively, of 1968.

Mr. Fortescue

At a recent private meeting, did the Minister of State, or did he not, use words to the effect that if the Concord project had been left to the British Government it would have been scrapped, and it was only the insistence of the French Government that kept it in being?

Mr. Benn

I was not at the private meeting, neither was the hon. Gentleman, and neither was the Press. I think that that more or less settles it.

Mr. Brooks

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a considerable amount of well-founded apprehension about the sonic boom problem associated with this aircraft? Is it not time that the Government announced where and when they will carry out adequate tests over an English city which would indicate whether this aircraft will be tolerable when it does fly?

Mr. Benn

This matter is under consideration. There was an Adjournment debate on the subject on 3rd February.

Sir H. Legge-Bourke

Has the attention of the right hon. Gentleman been called to the "Panorama" programme on the B.B.C. last night, which seems to have been designed principally to damage any possible sales of this wonderful aircraft? While we would not ask him to censure the B.B.C. in any way, will he at least seek equal time to be given on that programme in order to put the whole matter in proper perspective?

Mr. Benn

Quite a lot of what has been said about the Concord is not very helpful —I am not sure that I would exclude some points made in today's Question Time—but that B.B.C. programme, which, unfortunately, I was not able to see, did include other references. One I have in mind came from Mr. Dufour, who said that technical collaboration had been much better than could have been expected. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect any Government to interfere with what might be said on matters of this kind.