HC Deb 12 February 1968 vol 758 cc922-4
4. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Technology by what date the proposed European airbus will be in airline service; and by what date he estimates that its possible rivals will be in airline service.

Mr. Stonehouse

The European airbus should enter service early in 1973. An American airbus might come into service in 1972, but as it would have a longer range it would not be a direct competitor.

Mr. Marten

Is it true that the three national airlines of Britain, France and Germany must commit themselves to this aircraft by the summer of this year? If they do not, or if the orders do not amount to 75, will the project be cancelled or will the French go it alone? Would not that be very serious for the long-term stability of our industry?

Mr. Stonehouse

It is true that the airlines will be expected to enter into commitments by the summer of this year. There is another detailed Question on the Order Paper about this point.

21. Mr. Robert Howarth

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations for a European airbus.

Mr. Stonehouse

The work of the first phase of the project is proceeding well. The next stage is the submission of detailed reports by the companies at the end of April.

Mr. Howarth

Can my hon. Friend be a little more firm on the question of proposed dates? Is it possible to give dates for projected first flight and possible entry into service?

Mr. Stonehouse

As I have announced this afternoon, we hope that the aircraft will go into service in 1973. We are satisfied that the design work is going well and we hope that we will be able to get the airlines to consider their commitments before the summer.

22. Mr. Robert Howarth

asked the Minister of Technology what airline interest has been expressed to him in the European airbus by the British European Airways, Air France and Lufthansa.

27. Mr. Fortescue

asked the Minister of Technology what airlines have notified him of an interest in the A300 airbus.

Mr. Stonehouse

British European Airways, Air France and Lufthansa are co-operating in the preparation and evaluation of the aircraft's specification. Interest in the aircraft has been expressed by many airlines, both inside and outside Europe.

Mr. Howarth

Can my hon. Friend say whether approaches have been made specifically to Alitalia, one of the other major European airlines, whose order for this aircraft would be of prime importance?

Mr. Stonehouse

We know that Alitalia has been considering an airbus, and I discussed with Ministers in Rome last June the prospect of the Italians co-operating with us in the production of the airbus. It was made clear to them that this would be tied to purchase of the aircraft by Italian airlines.

Mr. Fortescue

While welcoming the recent news that the two French national airlines are now firmly interested in this aircraft, may I ask whether it is still the Minister's intention that work on the aircraft should not go forward until 75 firm orders are in the bag?

Mr. Stonehouse

That has been our position, it is our position and it will continue to be our position, because it is on a basic firm market by the three main airlines concerned that this aircraft can become a viable project, particularly for our own United Kingdom firms involved.

Mr. Burden

Does the hon. Gentleman really expect that customers, particularly foreign customers, will place firm orders for this aircraft before they get firm particulars of its performance, which have not yet been forthcoming?

Mr. Stonehouse

That is exactly what the design phase is intended to provide. The companies will give those specifications to the airlines within a few weeks and the airlines will then be expected to make a commitment. Airlines in the United States book their aircraft well in advance before the constructors begin to spend money on the building of an aircraft. We must adopt the same philosophy in Europe if we are to make a successful aircraft industry.