HC Deb 01 July 1974 vol 876 cc21-2
14. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what further steps he intends to take to aid the entry into service of Concorde, following the recent transatlantic flights.

23. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on Concorde.

Mr. Benn

As I said in reply to the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) on 24th June, the Government are pressing ahead with their review of the project. In the meantime, work is continuing on the existing programme with the objective of ensuring that Concorde can be put into service at the earliest practicable date.

Mr. Adley

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm for manufacturing industry, does he not agree that the low-import high-labour content of Concorde should fit in very nicely with the general thesis that he has been propounding this afternoon? Does he not agree that new orders from airlines for the aircraft are most unlikely to come forward in large numbers until British Airways and Air France have it in service? Will he continue his efforts to ease off the fence as many of his colleagues as possible?

Mr. Benn

The hon. Gentleman follows this matter carefully and will know that these points have been put forward powerfully to Ministers in the review. He will also have read in the papers that the prospects of possible orders from Iran Air have now come about. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Members would stop booing a moment and listen, they will find that I used the word "possible". HANSARD will confirm it. Prospects of possible orders from Iran Air have come in, and no doubt the whole world will have noted the Atlantic trip of Concorde to Rio de Janeiro and back, demonstrating the superb technical capability of the aircraft.

Mr. James Lamond

In making this review, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that British Airways must continue to buy the Boeing 747, with con- siderable adverse effect on our balance of payments position, amounting probably to £320 million between now and 1976? Might it not be better to buy fewer Boeings and more Concordes?

Mr. Benn

The responsibility for British Airways lies with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade. Anyone who followed the British Airways figures which were published recently will have drawn from them the clear conclusion that British Airways believes that there will be a creaming-off from subsonic aircraft into supersonic aircraft. At the same time, the figures estimated the effect of this on British Airways' profitability.

Mr. Marten

Will the Minister persuade the British Aircraft Corporation to fill up a Concorde aircraft with hon. Members who oppose Concorde and flip them across to New York for lunch and back in the evening for the 10 o'clock Division? What is the total cost of Concorde so far, what would be the cost of cancellation, and how many jobs would be at risk?

Mr. Benn

In reply to the latter part of the supplementary question, I published the figures in March and I am afraid that I cannot, off-hand, give an updated account of the ultimate costs, because they would need to be accurately worked out. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that those who have observed the transatlantic flights would have no doubt whatsoever of the superb technical achievement that Concorde represents.