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Under typical operating conditions, Concorde's supersonic range is expected to be about 4,000 statute miles. If anyone wished to fly it continuously at subsonic speed, the range would be some 10 per cent. less.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that his reply now disagrees with previous Answers he has given on the subject? Does not that fact suggest that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the aircraft, and would it not be better for him to abandon the entire project before losing more money on it?
I know my hon. Friend's views on the Concorde, because he has expressed them on a number of other occasions. I think that I said in answer to previous Questions that the range is approximately the same, and the 10 per cent. figure I have given is in accordance with that statement.
Is it not fairly certain that this aircraft will, when the orders are taken up, prove to be an extremely profitable aircraft? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he has no intention at all of following his hon. Friend's suggestion?
I have answered that question on so many occasions that I hardly think it necessary for me to say again that, of course, we hope and expect that the Concorde will be a success. At the same time, there are uncertainties associated with projects of this complexity. Whenever I am asked questions I always draw attention to those complexities, because if the country wishes to be in this business it has to accept that there are uncertainties.
Various methods of attenuating engine noise are being investigated. Sonic boom effects are being studied using simulated booms, and fundamental work on the nature of the boom itself is continuing in collaboration with France.
It is difficult to anticipate what view will be taken before the Governments concerned reach a decision. We have not yet reached our decision in the matter. Work is going on in the engine side. Work is also going on in conjunction with the Meteorological Office, at Farnborough and at the National Physical Laboratory, the Universities of Strathclyde and Southampton and on buildings with the Building Research Station. I think everything which can be done is being done to study the problem.
Is it not quite wrong to spend huge sums of money on such a project when the effective details of how it will fly and whether it will be allowed to fly over populated areas are not yet known?
I think my hon. Friend's objections would apply to anything that is new. Had the House of Commons had the opportunity at the very beginning of considering the toll of death and destruction which the motor vehicle would produce, and still does produce at a high rate, I am sure our predecessors would have taken a much sterner view.
Are not the risks incurred by the Government far greater than any risks incurred by the companies, and does it not follow, therefore, that the Government ought in equity to have a far greater proportion of the profits?
These considerations are very much in mind in negotiating with the companies. There is the levy which was intended to pay off some at least of the research and development costs, the production loans, and other arrangements which will be made. As regards the Concorde, everything really depends upon its success in selling to airlines. If it is very successful, the Government will have a share.
I think that there is another Question down about that, but, as I got into trouble the other day when I said that, perhaps I had better answer the hon. Gentleman now.
It is likely to be some months, into the early autumn. It is causing anxiety, obviously, but the delay need not necessarily follow right through to the point in time at which the aircraft goes into airline service. This question has to be set against the background of the even greater delay being experienced on the Boeing 2707.
Supersonic flying over France is military flying. As my hon. Friend knows, Concorde has not yet flown. I think it reasonable in a project of this kind to go forward and then to study the effect of the boom when we have heard it from the Concorde itself. I had occasion a moment ago to draw my hon. Friend's attention to the accidents inseparable from life at home or from transport of all other kinds. I do not think that the evidence from France would justify the cancellation of Concorde.
I accept what my right hon. Friend says, but will he bear in mind that many of us on this side of the House, particularly those representing the city of Bristol, are firm supporters of the Concorde project? Will he therefore pay not too much attention to the groundless fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Putney?
Bristol is divided, like every other city, between those who want to make Concorde and those who are anxious about the noise it will make. This seems to me a perfectly reasonable controversy, and it does not justify abuse of those who put forward a particular point.