HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 cc3-4
2. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is now in a position to give his observations upon the report of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry regarding the position of the Concorde programme.

The Under-Secretary of State for Industry (Mr. Norman Tebbit)

I advised the Chairman of the Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry), on 8 June that consideration of the report was well advanced; and that my right hon. Friend had accordingly decided that a substantive Government reply, in the form of a Command Paper, could be given to Parliament before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he ensure that the House has an opportunity to debate this matter before the Summer Recess? In the interval, can he confirm the Select Committee's conclusion that, however badly we do, we shall do worse than the French from a continuation of this programme? As all hope now appears to have been abandoned for selling any of these albatrosses on a commercial basis, is it not time to take another drastic look at the matter?

Mr. Tebbit

As my hon. Friend knows, the first point that he raised is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, but I am sure that a debate on the issue would be interesting, to say the least. His second point, concerning the balance of expenditure between ourselves and our French partners, is one that I raised with the French Minister in January. I hope to raise the matter again with the new French Minister as soon as possible.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Is it not time that this expensive white elephant was relegated to an elephants' graveyard, since from its very inception it has not paid its way, and has simply added to the losses of British Airways?

Mr. Tebbit

The right hon. Gentleman would be wise to await the Command Paper and see the balance of advantage and disadvantage of costs and benefits which would arise from cancellation or continuation of the project.

Mr. McCrindle

Concorde has already lost many millions of pounds which are irrecoverable, but is it not a fact that supersonic air travel is here to stay, and that there is a real possibility that Concorde mark II might go forward on a co-operative basis, involving not only this country but France and the United States? Would not the Minister agree that to cancel Concorde services at this time and run the risk of our being excluded from any development of supersonic travel would be a great setback?

Mr. Tebbit

The Government's decision in this regard will be taken on the basis of strict adherence to the principle of value for money and pursuing the matter on the minimum costs. I am sure that there will be a supersonic successor to Concorde, but I very much doubt whether it will be in this decade.

Mr. Orme

I wish to press the matter because of the public interest in the matter. Will there be a debate on this matter before the Summer Recess? It is not sufficient to produce a Command Paper. We must have a debate at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Tebbit

I can only say that I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said—as, I am sure, has my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House.