HC Deb 20 March 1979 vol 964 cc1297-8
18. Mr. Townsend

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the age of the aircraft of the Queen's Flight; and if the Government now plan to replace them with modern jet aircraft.

Mr. Wellbeloved

The Andovers of the Queen's Flight entered service in 1964 and the Wessex in 1969. There are no current plans to re-equip the flight with jet aircraft.

Mr. Townsend

Is it right that our Head of State and her family have to fly in 14-year-old turbo-props, when her Ministers fly in modern jet aircraft? Will the Minister get a grip and come forward with sensible plans to re-equip this prestigious Flight?

Mr. Wellbeloved

The hon. Gentleman is factually incorrect. Ministers use the Queen's Flight when it is available, and Her Majesty uses jet aircraft of the Royal Air Force, notably the VC 10. Many years of good and useful service remain to be taken from the Andovers of the Queen's Flight.

Mr. Tapsell

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that when these aircraft arrive overseas they are universally regarded with affectionate amusement and that they do grave damage to the reputation of British technology? Would it not be in the commercial interests of this country for members of the Royal Family to fly in modern jet aircraft?

Mr. Wellbeloved

The cost of the Queen's Flight falls upon the defence Vote. It costs the defence Vote £1.8 million. With the pressures on air defence and many other matters, it is right and proper that the defence Vote is concentrated upon the defence of the country. To the best of my knowledge, the Royal Family are satisfied with the arangements made by the Royal Air Force. In any long-range flights undertaken by Her Majesty, VC 10s are available and provide a satisfactory and technologically perfect service.

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