HC Deb 17 April 1972 vol 835 cc3-4
1. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what prospects he is now able to assess for firm Concorde orders on the latest evidence available to his Department.

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and President of the Board of Trade (Mr. John Davies)

The manufacturers are currently in negotiation with a number of airlines and hope to obtain the first firm orders within the next few months.

Mr. Dykes

I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply and for finding the useful extra support given by the Government last week. Will he go further today and refute categorically the irresponsible and dangerous suggestion in one Sunday newspaper yesterday that Concorde is experiencing full pay-load problems?

Mr. Davies

I share my hon. Friend's concern that there should be any endeavour to denigrate the achievements of this formidable technological project. The whole question of selling the new aircraft to an airline involves very complex discussions about payload, distance, fuel consumption and the like. To select some curious circumstance and try to attribute some importance of this kind to it is purely mischievous.

Mr. Benn

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said. Will he promise that the Government will intervene actively if there is a suggestion of Government action in other countries which might frighten the airlines off? Have the special points about fuel reserves and special landing priorities for Concorde been considered, in order to deal with the points so wrongly referred to in the papers yesterday, as we did for the 747? What will be the British Government's attitude to supersonic flights over the United Kingdom?

Mr. Davies

On the first question, the primary task of ensuring the sale of the aircraft lies with the constructor companies, but the Government are giving support to the operation in every form possible. As for fuel reserves and landing procedures, these are part of the negotiating basis between the constructors and the airlines and are matters on which I would not wish to intervene unless for some reason it seemed that things were going badly agley. Supersonic flight is a matter under continual consideration in the Government. The matter will receive attention in the light of the likely developments of commercial supersonic flight over the country.

Mr. Adley

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on what he is doing to support the manufacturers. Will he take the opportunity to denigrate publicly the persistent attempts of certain "Concorde-knockers", whose motives some of us find rather curious?

Mr. Davies

I hope that everything that has been said by my right hon. Friend, myself and others recently will help to support the valid claims which are made for this project and its great importance not just for Britain and France but for the whole of the future of the aircraft industry.

Mr. Palmer

Is BOAC now prepared to commit itself to a minimum number of orders?

Mr. Davies

This clearly depends on the outcome of the negotiations presently in course. I do not wish at this stage to intervene in these matters. The subject is fully under discussion between the constructors and the airline.