HC Deb 12 December 1968 vol 775 cc203-4W
Mr. Howarth

asked the Minister of Technology if he will make a further statement on the European Airbus.

Mr. Benn

The House will recall that, at the meeting in Paris in August with my French and German colleagues, we agreed to give the consortium of firms a further period to complete the design stage of the A.300 aircraft with a view to improving its technical performance, reducing its price and testing the market.

The response of world airlines to the revised proposals has not been encouraging and the prospects of an economic return, both to the firms and to the Governments, were not sufficiently good.

The consortium of firms have therefore withdrawn the present A.300 design, and have said that they wish now to put forward proposals for a scaled-down version of the aircraft, with around 250 seats, and using the Rolls-Royce RB.211.

In these circumstances, the costs involved in developing the RB.207 engine for the European Airbus can be saved, and Rolls-Royce are stopping work on the engine in this application.

The withdrawal of the A.300 design presents the three Governments with a new situation which they will have to consider.

As far as Her Majesty's Government is concerned, I must make it absolutely clear that I cannot in any way commit the Government to give financial support to any new proposals which may be brought forward by the consortium. In this new situation, we shall judge these or any other proposals on their merits against the stringent economic criteria which we apply when Government launching aid is sought, including the assurance of a firm market, and against the need to control the aggregate level of public expenditure.

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