HL Deb 02 April 1968 vol 290 cc1177-9

2.36 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows;

To ask Her Majesty's Government when they expect:

  1. (a) the French-built Concorde prototype to make its first flight;
  2. (b) the British-built Concorde prototype to make its first flight;
  3. (c) the Concorde to receive its Public Transport Certificate of Airworthiness.]


My Lords, both Concordes are Anglo-French, containing exactly the same British and French components. The manufacturers will be making a statement about a revised first flight date of the Toulouse-assembled Concorde. The first flight of the Bristol-assembled Concorde remains planned for September, 1968. The grant of a Certificate of Airworthiness is planned for 1971, in time for deliveries to the airlines to begin before the end of that year.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that reply. Can he say whether there is any possibility or likelihood of the French-built prototype not being completed until after the date the British-built prototype is expected to fly?


My Lords, I do not understand the question. Both aircraft use exactly the same components. There is no question of any race between the two; and I think it is a mistake to suggest that there is.


My Lords, would not the noble Lord be prepared to go a little further and say that this suggestion, this implication, to which my noble friend has drawn attention, that this is a race rather than an effort in co-ordination between two countries, is entirely deplorable? Would he also answer this second supplementary question? Would he clarify what was apparently a conflict of views or attitudes expressed between the spokesmen in Filton and Toulouse a few weeks ago?—for it is of concern to those of us who are interested in this project.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Naturally, the Press pick on what appears to be a conflict, and they like to exaggerate it. Without being too unkind to the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, I would say that it is mischievous in any way to suggest that one set of people assembling components in Bristol are having a race with another set of people assembling the same components in Toulouse. If there are any modifications of components, it is planned that the French will have them first. There can be, in these circumstances, absolutely no question of a race.

The noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, asked about statements which have been made by representative people in both France and Britain appearing to criticise their respective partners. The fact is that the French Minister of Transport made a statement which was inaccurately reported and which his office quite definitely corrected the following day. There was another statement by Dr. Russell in this country which, he later explained, was made in joke. I, and others, thought it a poor joke; he should understand the way in which these things are picked up by the Press.


My Lords, would the noble Lord care to comment on what seemed to be the rather regrettable attitude contained in an article by Mr. Jack Prosser in the Evening Standard yesterday to the effect that the Concorde may be a costly flop?


My Lords, I read the article, and my attitude to it is this. I have myself in years gone by criticised the supersonic concept. I can understand criticism of a project, saying that we should not have it; I can understand agreement that we should go on with it. What I cannot understand is that, having decided to go on with a project, people should then spend all their time in criticising it.


My Lords, while accepting the strictures of the noble Lord about creating discord over the Concorde, may I ask him what was the purpose of the statement by the French authorities—I do not think it is one of those that they subsequently withdrew—complaining that the auto-pilot had been delivered late?


My Lords, my own impression was that this was covered in the statement which the French Minister of Transport had made. The fact was that there was a change of specification. Instead of having an American auto-pilot, the decision was to have a British autopilot. There was, consequently, some delay in the original date for the delivery of this piece of equipment; but the decision to change the specification was an Anglo-French one. There can therefore be absolutely no question of one side blaming the other.

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