Technology

Part of Orders of the Day — Queen's Speech – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th November 1964.

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Photo of Mr Roy Jenkins Mr Roy Jenkins , Birmingham Stechford 12:00 am, 5th November 1964

I am sorry. I would be very happy to give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but I have already explained the position. The House has constantly asked throughout the debate to have the Government's mind on this matter expressed to them, and I am endeavouring to do this. I cannot do that and answer a great number of questions. I am sorry about it.

These then are the reasons for urgency, but the reasons for desiring the review are longer-term ones, and the hon. Member who tried to interrupt was, of course, on a good point here. Our desire and determination is not merely to solve this balance of payments crisis but to prevent it recurring, and to break out of the dreary pattern which has bedevilled our economic performance in the past.

From this point of view we must look in this way at projects like the Concord. We must ask ourselves: will they help us and our partners to an extent commensurate with their cost to pay our way in the world of the future? If the answer to the question is "no", or even if it is "probably no", are there any worthwhile counterbalancing technological or social conditions?

This afternoon the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) set himself broadly these criteria. I got a little befogged by the force of his oratory later on. I did not quite follow it. I propose to try to stick to them. First of all, let me deal with the economic test. The original French estimate was £135 million. Ours was always a little higher—we thought between £150 million and £170 million. We now know that it is to be at least £280 million. [An HON. MEMBER: "How does the right hon. Gentleman know?"] Because that is the decision arrived at and agreed with the French. We now know that it will be at least £280 million plus a substantial additional sum after the certificate of airworthiness stage. There is a great possibility of even this very high level of costs spiralling still further.

This so far is a question of the costs to the two Governments. On top of this there is the question of the cost of the aircraft itself to possible purchasers. Originally the estimate was between £3 million and £4 million and there was thought to be a possibility of a return to Governments of £1 million per aircraft sold. The estimate of the cost of one of these planes has now risen to £5 million and with it the hope of any proper return to Governments has greatly weakened. On the contrary, what we might face is the problem of having to subsidise even the national airlines, B.O.A.C. and Air France, to use the plane at all, because the operating costs were substantially higher than those for subsonic jets.