HC Deb 09 July 1973 vol 859 cc1004-7
12. Mr. Hunt

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he will make a statement on the present position regarding the establishment of a Concorde simulator in Great Britain.

The Minister for Aerospace and Shipping (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

The most appropriate arrangements for simulator training facilities are being carefully examined, and I hope that the position will be resolved shortly.

Mr. Hunt

As the only alternative to a simulator is the training of crews on actual aircraft, which would be much more expensive, and as the French simulator industry lacks both experience and expertise, can my hon. Friend give an assurance that he will continue to fight for the simulator to be sited in the United Kingdom and that he will continue to give his unstinted support to the joint project put forward by the two British firms which are pre-eminent in the field?

Mr. Heseltine

I am aware of the joint project which has been put forward by Redifon and Link-Miles, and I am certainly aware of the geographical attraction of siting a simulator in this country. I assure my hon. Friend that both these matters will be carefully taken into account when we reach our decision.

Mr. Millan

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that on 7th August last year, in a parliamentary answer, I was given a specific assurance by the Under-Secretary that the simulator would be situated in Britain? What has changed since then, and why has that decision apparently now been brought into question?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman is correct. He was given exactly that assurance. We obviously have to bear in mind the rate of sales and the facilities and capacity of the simulator, and we are examining the situation in the light of a new proposal which has been put forward since that date.

Mr. Tebbit

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is not simply a matter of the geographical attraction of where the simulator is finally sited but the technical attraction for whichever country's industry, in this extremely important field, is to build it? Will he please put some push into pushing forward our contenders?

Mr. Heseltine

We have kept closely in touch with the manufacturers on the matter. I am very much aware of the point made by my hon. Friend.

21. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next intends to discuss the progress of Concorde with the French Ministers concerned.

Mr. Michael Heseltine

I expect my next meeting with the French Minister of Transport about Concorde to be in the autumn.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Are the French Government pressing for an immediate production slow-down? Can my hon. Friend assure the House that he is aware of the difficulty which we would face in selling to British taxpayers the proposition that they should pay for a single production line in France?

Mr. Heseltine

There is no pressure from the French Government on any of the matters which my hon. Friend raises. We shall discuss in the autumn any matter relevant to the Concorde programme.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

If the hon. Gentleman is to maintain two production lines—one in this country and one in France—as there are no firm orders, with the exception of the French order, what will he do with the aircraft? Even BOAC says that it will not take the aircraft with its present noise levels. What is the use of producing aircraft if they cannot be sold?

Mr. Heseltine

The hon. Gentleman is aware that BOAC has said no such thing, and it is for the Governments concerned— [Interruption.] It is important that we should clear up this matter. BOAC has said nothing of the sort. The rumour in the Press that it had was promptly denied by BOAC the next day.

Mr. Skinner

Is BOAC buying it?

Mr. Heseltine

It is buying it. It is very important that we should maintain a balance between the rate of production and the orders we have for the aircraft at any given time.

Mr. Bishop

Will the Minister confirm that the United States FAA administrator recently said that he expects the United States to confirm the certificate of airworthiness at the same time as the British and French? I believe that we are 85 per cent. towards that goal and that the United States has no intention of bringing forward discriminatory legislation against supersonic aircraft and Concorde. When the Minister meets his counterpart in France, will he discuss future development of Concorde and British participation in that development?

Mr. Heseltine

Certainly the last statement which I saw from the FAA in America was extremely helpful to the general prospects of Concorde. In any conversations we have with the French Government, which are likely to take place in the autumn, the question of British participation will be fully to the fore.