HL Deb 27 May 1976 vol 371 cc352-4

11.22 a.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 whether they can confirm that Her Majesty the Queen has decided to travel in Concorde on her visit to North America, now that the aircraft has been granted a certificate of air worthiness.

The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Shepherd)

My Lords, the Queen will be finishing Her tour of the United States in Boston, and the most convenient and obvious way of starting Her visit to Canada will be to travel by Britannia.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, but I asked about the Queen's visit to North America, not to Canada. Is the noble Lord aware that I have received a multitude of letters from BAC employees expressing their unhappiness and dissatisfaction at this decision? Is it too late for the Government to reconsider the decision? If they cannot reconsider it completely, perhaps there can be a compromise; for example, Her Majesty might fly at least as far as Bermuda?


My Lords, the noble Earl will be aware that until the very last moment there have been legal doubts as to whether Concorde could fly to the United States. Fortunately this is now possible and we wish great success to both airlines which operate this aircraft. But when one is arranging a programme of this kind, one must make certain conjectures, and it was felt that in all the circumstances governing the visit to the United States and to Canada the Queen should arrive in the United States and in Canada on board Britannia. That was the reason the decision was taken. I understand the feelings of those, particularly in British Airways, who feel passionately about the success of this aircraft. But the decision was taken solely on the question of convenience.


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Lord one question. In view of the fact that Concorde is a joint venture. and bearing in mind that President Giscard d'Estaing has used the Concorde to fly to Zaire and for his recent visit to Washington, does the noble Lord agree that every opportunity should be sought so that in the not too distant future Her Majesty the Queen does fly in Concorde?


My Lords, it is not for me to suggest to Her Majesty what mode of aircraft she should use. But I have no doubt at all that one day Her Majesty will fly in Concorde.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that Her Majesty is going to the United States as part of the Bicentenary celebrations and that she has decided, to the great satisfaction of the Americans, to go by boat along the historic route of the boats that travelled to Massachusetts 200 years ago? Is the noble Lord also aware that all this is part of the ceremony? Will he formally deprecate the use of the name of Her Majesty with regard to an invitation to advertise Colman's mustard, Senior Service cigarettes, or even a British aeroplane?


My Lords, I do not think that the noble Earl had that in mind. Those who seek to use the name of the Queen for any particular commercial advantage would, I think, be condemned by all in this House. My noble friend is quite right. The Queen is travelling on Britannia along the old route, and this is being very much appreciated in the United States.


My Lords, as an author of peace and a lover of Concorde, might I suggest that those who are seeking in this debate to promote it might inadvertently he doing the opposite by suggesting that Her Majesty would not want to travel on Concorde? We should conclude by agreeing that this magnificent plane is one in which we should all love to travel, and that everyone else in the world would probably like that opportunity, too.


My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Concorde is an aircraft in which almost everyone—at least those who enjoy flying would love to fly.