§ 24. Mr. Lubbock
asked the Minister of Aviation whether the British Overseas Airways Corporation has placed a firm order for the Concord aircraft; and what conditions as to performance and delivery date have been specified.
§ Mr. Amery
The stage has not been reached at which firm and final orders can be placed. What has happened is that B.O.A.C. has decided to substitute for the previous arrangement the execution of a contract with the manufacturers—sud Aviation and B.A.C. This will reserve for B.O.A.C. eight Concord aircraft. It will cover preliminary conditions as to performance and delivery dates. A cash deposit will be paid.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Can the Minister explain why it is that B.O.A.C. should now fork out £680,000 to safeguard its delivery place in the queue when previously we had been given to understand that already the Corporation had aircraft allocated to it in the series? Can the right hon. Gentleman say what new factor has entered into the situation since the Select Committee on Estimates reported, as recently as December, that no firm decision would be made about the Concord by B.O.A.C. until 1966? Will the Minister assure the House that the ultimate order will be conditional on the British Aircraft Corporation meeting the standards laid down in 1961 at the I.A.T.A. symposium on supersonic aircraft.
§ Mr. Amery
I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be sufficiently familiar with contractual procedures to realise that this is a "staircase" and that every now and then one moves from one step to another. Both B.O.A.C. and Air France judged that they had reached the point where they could go beyond the original arrangement and produce something firm. It is not yet a final order, but it is a step towards one. The terms on which B.O.A.C. will finally make up its mind must be a matter for the commercial judgment of the Corporation in, of course, consultation with me.
§ Mr. Dudley Smith
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the noise of this projected airliner will not reach an intolerable level when it is operated from London Airport?
§ Mr. Lubbock
Is the Minister aware that the previous chairman of B.O.A.C. said that he would not place a firm order unless the conditions laid down at the I.A.T.A. symposium were met? Has there been any change in policy by the new chairman?
28. Mr. Lee
asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on the progress of the Concord aircraft; and whether the cost is in line with the estimates.
§ 34. Sir A. V. Harvey
asked the Minister of Aviation to what extent expenditure has exceeded the original budget for the design and construction of the Concord project.
§ Mr. Amery
Good progress is being made with this project in collaboration with our French partners. B.O.A.C. and Air France have recently announced their intention of entering into direct arrangements with the manufacturers for eight aircraft each. Provisional orders have been placed by overseas airlines, including Pan American, T.W.A., Continental Airlines and American Airlines for a 1159 total of 21 Concords. Further orders are in the course of negotiation.
As stated in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) on 29th January, proposals are being considered for an increase in the power of the Olympus 593 engine and for certain changes to the wing design in order to achieve better range and payload. An increase in cost will result, but until the assessment of the new proposals is complete, I cannot give revised estimates.
Is the Minister aware that if his statement now discounts completely the rather ugly rumours we have heard, the whole House will welcome his assurance? Is he aware that on the question of the cost factor the Chancellor of the Exchequer inferred yesterday that the Minister of Aviation and not the Chancellor was responsible for the awful gap, and the fact that we are not in any way represented on the finance committee running the affairs of the Concord? Is he aware that the fact that there is no break point in the contract to fortify our position if the French should withdraw is one of grave importance to the House? Is he aware that we may well be confronted with having to double our stake if the French do withdraw? Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is to be an effort by the Government to get financial parity with the French in this matter?
§ Mr. Amery
I have no reason to believe that there is any sign of the French wishing to withdraw from the project. I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said at the beginning as an expression of the fact that, whatever else may separate us, we are both solid backers of the project. The Ministry of Aviation is represented fully at every level in the different committees which govern the development of the Concord programme. In so far as we are responsible for financial control, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated yesterday, that control is available.
§ Sir A. V. Harvey
Can my right hon. Friend say whether the original financial budget has been exceeded? In view of the excellent progress being made with this project which most of us are sure will succeed, is my right hon. Friend aware that the adverse criticism in the Press and elsewhere will only go to help 1160 the American project in the long run? Will he consider publishing a White Paper setting out the facts about expenditure, modifications and so on, in order that the House and the public will know where we are going, and the Americans will be told what they will have to live up to?
§ Mr. Amery
I do not think that the budget has been exceeded so far. The only question is whether modifications to the engine and wing structure may add to the estimate. It may be a little too early to publish a White Paper, but I will look into the suggestion made by my hon. Friend. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that it is very important that on this project, as indeed on others, we should not go out of our way, as some critics have been doing, to run down British projects which are doing very well.