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B.E.A. has sought my approval for the purchase of 26 Trident 3-B aircraft, with an option for 10 more. I have informed the Corporation that the Government approves the purchase of a fleet of Trident 3-B aircraft and have suggested that it should enter into negotiations with the manufacturers. Detailed approval must await the outcome of these negotiations. Meanwhile, I am discussing with the Corporation the financial arrangements required to implement the undertaking given by the then Minister of Aviation on 2nd August, 1966.
While welcoming the news that B.E.A. is at last in a position to place an order, may I ask for an assurance that no further delays will be caused by unnecessarily prolonging the negoiations on compensation?
This is good news to those hon. Members who have been hoping for an early decision on this, the second half of the re-equipment programme of B.E.A. Will my right hon. Friend accept that it brings satisfaction in view of the constant statement, particularly by hon. Members opposite, denigrating a very fine aircraft which, in its Mark 1 and Mark 2 versions, has given excellent service to B.E.A?
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what the estimated deliveries of this aircraft are? Has he looked into the commercial prospects of selling it abroad? Such prospects must come into the deal with B.E.A.
As the hon. Gentleman will recall from the exchanges following my statement before Christmas, we have considered the export prospects for this aircraft and we think that, following devaluation, there are some prospects and possibly even more of import saving. But it would give a false impression to pretend that there was a huge export market for it. I should like notice of the point about delivery dates.
Did not the previous financial agreement to which my right hon. Friend has referred comprehend a decision that, if B.E.A. were compelled to buy an aircraft not of its own choice, it would be compensated operationally by the Government? Does that still stand?