HC Deb 05 March 1969 vol 779 cc406-9
12. Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will now make a further statement on the European Airbus project.

21. Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

asked the Minister of Technology when he will announce his decision upon the application by the British Aircraft Corporation for Government financal support in the production of the BAC3–11.

41. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Technology when he expects to announce the Government's decision on the Jumbo Jet.

43. Mr. Gresham Cooke

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will make a statement on the progress of the European Airbus project.

Mr. Benn

My Department is continuing its evaluation of both the A300B and the BAC3-11, and I am not yet in a position to say what the outcome will be. The French and German Governments have been informed of the proposals put forward by B.A.C.

Mr. Onslow

Does the Minister agree that the market is the best place for tests between the technical merits of these two aircraft to take place? Does he also agree that, whichever decision he may reach, it will not make political sense if it is not thoroughly commercial?

Mr. Benn

The view that we take about new aircraft projects is that the market has to be established before we are prepared to go ahead. This is a consideration which I am glad to say that B.A.C. fully accepts.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

How many months have been consumed by the right hon. Gentleman's Department in carrying out these evaluation studies to date, and how many more months does the Minister except to go by before they are complete?

Mr. Benn

I suppose about 11 or 12 weeks. The A300 was withdrawn by the consortium just before Christmas, and the period between that date and now is the only time occupied by my Department with an evaluation of the A300B.

Mr. Rankin

As by 1980 the number of passengers travelling in aircraft will be, on average, about 5½ times greater than in 1967 and cargo will have increased by 8 times, does my right hon. Friend not think that he should begin to revise his views on whether the Jumbo Jet 250 will fill the Bill? Will it not be too small by then?

Mr. Benn

The answer to my hon. Friend's question is that, although this is the greatest growth market in many ways in the world, it is calculated that by 1985 the value of aircraft in service will be £45,000 million. But we have still to get the right aircraft. Undoubtedly there will be a demand for the very big jets of the 747 type, for the Airbus 250 and for smaller feeder aircraft, and there will be a big chunk of the market for big supersonics.

Mr. Gresham Cooke

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the best chance of commercial success for this plane lies in its being a joint European effort, in which we have the chance of the French market and probably of the German market as well? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that to go it alone as one country seems beyond our powers, and that it would be more sensible to make this a joint European effort, particularly having regard to what has happened with the Concorde?

Mr. Benn

It is true that one of the major motivations for European aircraft policy is that it brings a market and some share of the research and development costs with it, as well as the fact that it brings the firms together. This is one reason why the Concorde was started in the form in which it was, why the Jaguar has been done in this way, and why the airbus has been discussed. At the same time, even international projects have to be able to establish that there is a market for them; otherwise one runs into the same difficulties internationally that we have sometimes experienced nationally.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that the German and French Governments still wish to proceed with a joint venture on the basis of the 300B proposals?

Mr. Benn

The German Government have made an announcement, and the French Government have indicated that they will shortly be reaching a decision. I have made it my business to keep in touch with them and indicate the thinking, which is a market-orientated thinking, that dictates our attitude towards these projects.

22. Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

asked the Minister of Technology what estimate he has made of the value of the work already undertaken by Hawker Siddeley Limited in connection with the European airbus, and the extent to which that work is relevant to the A300B.

Mr. Benn

Between July, 1967, and December, 1968, Hawker Siddeley Aviation Limited has done work to the value of about £1.35 million in connection with the A300 European Airbus programme. The consortium has indicated that about 90 per cent. of the work done on the A300 is relevant to the A300B design.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he bear in mind, once again, that time is of the essence for commercial success in all these things and do what he can to expedite a decision in this field?

Mr. Benn

I accept that time is very important, but I would rather wait until I am sure that I am right about something than go forward simply on the ground that there was a general feeling that we should move ahead. We must get these difficult decisions right.

30. Mr. Robert Howarth

asked the Minister of Technology what is the latest estimated European requirement, British European Airways, Air France and Lufthansa, combined, for a short medium range transport aircraft seating 250 passengers and of the timing of these requirements.

Mr. J. P. W. Mallalieu

I estimate the combined requirement of these three airlines for this general class of aircraft by the early 1980s to be about 75 to 100 aircraft. Air France is likely to need aircraft of this type as early as possible, but the requirements of B.E.A. and Lufthansa are less pressing.

Mr. Howarth

As there is no doubt about this requirement being quite firm, does my hon. Friend accept that it is necessary to make a decision either on the 300B or the 311 within the next six months, or are we to be pre-empted by the Boeing proposals which were announced last month?

Mr. Mallalieu

It is important not to make a decision until the whole market has been properly evaluated for both contenders