HC Deb 27 April 1970 vol 800 cc847-8
2. Mr. Marten

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a further statement about the BAC3-11 proposal.

5. Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Technology when he will reach a decision on the BAC3-11 project.

17. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will now make a statement about the BAC3-11 project.

Mr. Benn

Discussions with the manufacturers are continuing, and a decision will be taken as soon as possible.

Mr. Marten

In the meantime, can the Minister give any estimate of the possible world market, including B.E.A., and, secondly, which countries have shown an interest in being partners in this project?

Mr. Benn

Offhand, I cannot give a satisfactory answer. There is a world market for a variety of aircraft which would come into this category. No one has ever doubted this. The extent to which any model would capture any particular market is a subject that we are discussing. Every major international airline in the world is potentially in the market for this type of aircraft.

Mr. Onslow

Will the Minister at least confirm that the board of B.E.A. has communicated to him its strong support for this project?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman knows as well as anybody that the airlines deal with the President of the Board of Trade. I am not responsible for such comments as they may make.

Mr. Hastings

Will the Minister bear in mind the financial burden on the company the longer this decision is delayed?

Mr. Benn

I recognise this; but I am being asked for about £100 million of the taxpayers' money for the airframe alone, regardless of such money as might be needed for the engine. I think it right to satisfy myself that there is a market for this aircraft. I cannot apologise for assessing it very carefully before reaching a view.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that his decision on this aircraft depends primarily upon his decision upon the support costs for the Rolls-Royce RB211–50?

Mr. Benn

All these questions are inter-connected, and I am bound to take the engines decision into account in considering the airframe.

Sir A. V. Harvey

I appreciate that this matter is taking a long time to consider in view of the amount involved, but can the right hon. Gentleman say approximately when he expects to come to a decision, because it must delay the company's programme and affect prospective buyers if they do not know what the future holds.

Mr. Benn

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but I must be acquitted of delay here. There is no United States competitor for a twinengined aircraft of this kind. Various configurations are possible with -50 and -22 engines, and I believe that I must be allowed to wait until the thing gels before I reach a firm decision about it. Meanwhile, the company is funding it, that is recognised, but it is appropriate that it should fund the project until the Government decide that it is appropriate to provide launching aid.

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