HC Deb 07 February 1968 vol 758 cc394-5
6. Mr. Corfield

asked the President of the Board of Trade to what extent the views of British European Airways have been taken into account in making his decision on the British European Airways re-equipment programme.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

The views of B.E.A. have been taken fully into account, but the Government have also to have regard to wider national considerations.

Mr. Corfield

Can the hon. Gentleman indicate, first, what progress has been made in deciding how many Tridents B.E.A. will order; secondly, what progress has been made in negotiating the compensation promised to B.E.A. for being forced to order a plane not of its choice?

Mr. Mallalieu

To answer the latter part about negotiations on compensation, that will, in part, depend on the actual order that B.E.A. decides to place; but we have come to an agreement on the principle of how the compensation should be worked out. To answer the first part, the B.E.A. Board is almost daily working out what it considers will be the best action.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the original wish of B.E.A. was to order an American aircraft, the Boeing 727 200, and that devaluation has made the Trident 3B an extremely attractive and competitive aeroplane?

Mr. Mallalieu

That is so.

11. Mr. Fortescue

asked the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the effect which the delay in deciding upon the aircraft re-equipment programme of British European Airways will have on that airline's competitive position over the next five years.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

B.E.A. has not yet decided on its remaining fleet requirement, but I have no reason to think that, in terms of comfort and service to the public, B.E.A. will be in any way uncompetitive in the next five years.

Mr. Fortescue

In that case, can the Minister explain how an airline can possibly be competitive if it has no competitive aircraft?

Mr. Mallalieu

As I said, in terms of comfort and service, this aircraft, which I hope B.E.A. will order, will be competitive.

Mr. James Johnson

In view of the fact that Hawker Siddeley, which is soon to cease making Buccaneers at its plant near Hull—which means that 1,000 men will be unemployed there—

An Hon. Member

Whose fault is that?

Mr. Johnson

—will my hon. Friend please see the firm and expedite the decision about ordering the Hawker Siddeley 147-seater Trident?

Mr. Mallalieu

This decision is a matter for the B.E.A. Board, which, I hope, will shortly come to a conclusion.

Mr. Corfield

Will the hon. Gentleman also bear in mind the fact that every day that is delayed adds to the ultimate cost which is out of all proportion to the benefit that may be gained; in other words, delay can make an uncompetitive aircraft even more uncompetitive?

Mr. Mallalieu

This is a consideration which B.E.A. has in mind.