HC Deb 15 November 1971 vol 826 cc10-1
10. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress has been made by his Department in evaluating designs submitted to it by British aircraft manufacturers for a civil vertical/short take-off and landing airliner.

The Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. David Price)

Various design studies of aircraft having vertical and short take-off and landing characteristics have been submitted to, and are being considered by, our Department in connection with our continuing examination over a range of short-haul air transport problems. No firm proposals for the immediate development of an aircraft with these characteristics have been made.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from supersonics and wide-bodied airliner development, the V/STOL concept offers the best long-term future for the British civil aircraft manufacturing industry? Therefore, will he quickly inject development finance into such projects, not only to keep our technology alive but to create more jobs in the aerospace industry and in the regions?

Mr. Price

We are concerned not only with short take-off capability but with quieter engines. However, this problem is not peculiar to the British aircraft industry; it is world wide. The Government, together with the firms concerned, have been spending money on study work. As I said in my original reply, there is not yet a proposal which would lead to the cutting of metal.

Mr. William Rodgers

The hon. Gentleman has given his hon. Friend the Member for Badford, West (Mr. Wilkinson) a dusty reply. The plain fact is that many people simply cannot see a future for the airframe industry. Has not the moment come for the Government to publish a White Paper setting out absolutely clearly, for example, the sort of employment prospects they envisage five years ahead?

Mr. Price

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman that the time has come for a White Paper. He will know as well as I do that there is great uncertainty in the world about the exact characteristics and commercial mode of a civil STOL aircraft. We must get the matter right, because we are talking about a mode which will last well into the 1980s.

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