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Concorde Aircraft

Oral Answers to Questions — Technology – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th March 1968.

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Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney 12:00 am, 18th March 1968

asked the Minister of Technology what will be the range of the Concorde when flying supersonically and when flying subsonically, respectively.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

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?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

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?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to draw attention to the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Giving notice always cuts out any further supplementary questions.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

asked the Minister of Technology what research is being conducted into the noise problems associated with Concorde operations.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Can the Minister say what research is being done on environmental noise levels? Is he satisfied that Concorde will come below any such levels likely to be agreed internationally before it comes into service?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

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?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

asked the Minister of Technology whether, in view of the amounts of public money involved in the Concorde project and the risks involved, he will give an assurance that the greater proportion of any profits accruing from the venture will go to the Exchequer.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

It will be my intention in negotiation with the companies to see that the Government gets a share in profits commensurate with the risk which it is undertaking.

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Fife West

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?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Is the Minister yet in a position to tell us what will be the effect of the delays in flight testing on the expected date of the certificate of airworthiness?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

asked the Minister of Technology, in view of deaths and damage in France owing to sonic booms, if he will cancel Concorde.

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

No, Sir. Concorde flights will of course be controlled in the interest of those below the flight paths.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the number of deaths in France have now risen to 13 and that 2,870 actions are now pending against the Ministry of Defence? Does he think that if Concorde starts flying a similar situation can be avoided in this country?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Is the Minister aware that his hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) is now sufficiently well-established as a spokesman for the lunatic fringe of the anti-noise lobby for it to be unnecessary for him to put down Questions of this kind?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

The House will very strongly resent that comment. It is perfectly open to any hon. Member to express a point of view, and there are many Members who would qualify for the title "lunatic fringe".

Photo of Mr Arthur Palmer Mr Arthur Palmer , Bristol Central

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?

Photo of Mr Tony Benn Mr Tony Benn , Bristol South East

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.