HC Deb 13 July 1970 vol 803 cc1117-9
4. Mr. Palmer

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the future of the Concorde aircraft project.

8. Mr. Sheldon

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the Concorde project.

20. Mr. Barnett

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the future of Concorde.

23. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the future of the Concorde programme.

27. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a statement on the progress of the Concorde.

The Minister of Technology (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) on 6th July, development of Concorde is continuing as planned.—[Vol. 803, c. 300–1.]

Mr. Palmer

Yes, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his answers last week were thought in many quarters to be decidedly evasive? Is he aware that in Bristol, at any rate, a firm answer on what his intentions are is awaited with great anxiety?

Mr. Rippon

I thought my answers were very clear.

Mr. Sheldon

Since the meeting with M. Mondon, which will probably be in September, will decide the fate of Concorde, whether it should be cancelled or go forward, will the right hon. Gentleman, before this meeting, consult all the airlines which have placed these very tentative orders to make sure that he fully understands their disillusionment with the whole project?

Mr. Rippon

I do not have that impression. With regard to my discussions with M. Mondon, I cannot anticipate the results.

Mr. Barnett

Is the right hon. Gentleman's policy any different from that of his predecessor? Does he find the treaty which was signed by his predecessor the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) irrevocable?

Mr. Rippon

I inherited the same problems. I am considering the solutions.

Mr. Wall

Would my right hon. Friend bear in mind the direct and indirect benefits upon industry of the continuation of this project? Will he undertake to consider the matter entirely on its merits?

Mr. Rippon

I will consider the matter on its merits. It is a great project. I shall know rather more about how it is proceeding after flight tests have taken place in a few weeks.

Mr. Cronin

Will the Minister bear in mind that the next few months will be particularly crucial for Concorde because matters like pay-load, range and price will be established and it is likely to receive firm orders from airlines during that period? Would he reassure the House that, in spite of some pessimistic suggestions made by hon. Gentlemen, it will not be prematurely cancelled and will be allowed to survive on its merits?

Mr. Rippon

I am sure that those are considerations which will be borne in mind.

Mr. Rankin

Will the right hon. Gentleman say what is the nature of the penalty to which we shall be liable if we reject the agreement with France?

Mr. Rippon

I have not thought in those terms at all. I do not think there is any difficulty so far as that is concerned. We must wait for the flight tests at cruising speed before we can judge some of these matters which have arisen.

Mr. Benn

Could the Minister say when the present supersonic test flights up the west coast routes are likely to take place.

Mr. Rippon

These flights are likely to take place in about six weeks.

41. Mr. Judd

asked the Minister of Technology whether he will make a statement on his negotiations with the French Government and aircraft industry on the future of Concorde.

Mr. Rippon

No such negotiations have taken place.

Mr. Judd

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that negotiations and a statement are urgently needed because rumours continue to grow all the time, even in official circles on the Continent, the latest suggestion being that even if the aircraft were given to the airlines, they could not afford the loss in operating them? Looking back over the whole saga of Concorde, is it not extraordinary that the Conservative Government, which negotiated the agreement, made no provision for a break clause?

Mr. Rippon

I accept none of those assertions.