HC Deb 14 October 1968 vol 770 cc7-8
9. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement about progress with the airbus.

Mr. Benn

At the Ministerial meeting on 2nd August, we agreed that the overall concept of the aircraft was right, but that further work was needed—particularly on commercial and financial aspects—before taking the decision to go ahead with development. This work is in hand and Ministers will meet again before the end of the year.

Mr. Marten

In view of the obvious difficulty of getting agreement to go ahead on the airbus, which should have been agreed last July, and in view of Boeing's challenge, will the Minister give serious reconsideration to going ahead, if the airbus project should collapse, with the BAC311?

Mr. Benn

That introduces a separate consideration. The BAC311 is a new concept which has emerged from the company. The work on the airbus has been going on for a long time. Boeing is a potential competitor, but it has not announced anything. We have prolonged the project definition stage to see whether the basic concept of the A300, which we think is right, is likely to be commercial and economic and will find a market. I think that is the right thing to do.

Mr. Rankin

in view of the advent of the airbus and the need to extend many of our present runways, looking to the future, can my right hon. Friend tell me why the lengthening of the Abbotsinch main runway at Glasgow is being opposed?

Mr. Benn

This is a very different question.

Mr. Corfield

The crux of the decision is whether the aircraft is commercial in the first place. Why has it taken such a long time to get round to it?

Mr. Benn

If the hon. Gentleman considers the experience of the American airbus, both Lockheed and Douglas spent a long time before deciding to go ahead on the basis of an assured market. Our view is that we should not begin an aircraft unless we are satisfied that there will be a market for it and evidence is available.