Concorde

Oral Answers to Questions — Aviation Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th December 1970.

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Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne 12:00 am, 9th December 1970

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply if he will make a further statement on the Concorde.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member on Wednesday, 18th November.—[Vol. 806, c. 1212–15.]

Photo of Mr Robert Sheldon Mr Robert Sheldon , Ashton-under-Lyne

Has the Minister considered the furore that is going on in the United States about the further financing of its supersonic transport? Has he considered the effect of this upon the options for Concorde, more than half of which are by American airlines and which, in the event of the United States supersonic transport not going forward is bound to result in a curtailing of licensing and other arrangements for such aircraft for the United States, and what has the right hon. Gentleman to say about this?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I have considered those developments, but I have equally considered the strong speech of President Nixon, which shows a determination to persuade Congress, if he possibly can, to overrule its present decision.

Photo of Lieut-Colonel David Mather Lieut-Colonel David Mather , Esher

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a viable British airframe industry is very much dependent on the Concorde project? Can he assure us that that will be borne in mind, as well as the commercial prospects and obligations to our partner?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

Those are important aspects, but I am sure that my hon. Friend would not wish us to proceed if, as I trust will not be the case, and as I do not believe will be the case, it turned out that Concorde was not in demand by the airlines.

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

What contact is the right hon. Gentleman maintaining with the American Government about Concorde? Will he make it crystal clear at the highest level in Washington that if the American Congress were to pass legislation which would make it impossible for Concorde to operate even subsonically in the United States, this would create a major crisis of confidence between the two countries?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I have already made that clear on a previous occasion, and it will be very much in our minds.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply if, in view of the fact that the cost of international co-operation in building Concorde has proved to be three times as large as estimated, he will disclose the details of the use to which Government moneys have been put in this project and the degree of inaccuracy in other related estimates.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

If the hon. Gentleman could specify a little more clearly what he has in mind in the latter part of his Question, I will try to let him have an answer.

Photo of Mr Hugh Jenkins Mr Hugh Jenkins , Wandsworth Putney

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the managing director of B.A.C. has declared that the cost of Concorde being an international project has involved the company in three times the cost in which it would have been involved if it had been a national project? Will the right hon. Gentleman now tell me just what is the X factor which one can use as a multiplicate? In other words, will he give the figure which must be multiplied by three to ascertain the proportion of the cost attributable to this being an international project?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I think the hon. Gentleman is better verbally than he is as a draftsman, if I may say so. I remind him that estimates of the extra cost of co-operation are purely matters of judgment and in many cases, of fairly wide speculation. It is virtually impossible to identify the extra cost beyond a quite narrow band of costs. In so far as it has been possible to identify these costs, we think that they add about 10 per Cent. to the total cost. However, I believe that there is probably truth in the suggestion that it is more than that, though it is quite impossible to identify it.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply what estimate he has made of the repayment to the Government from likely sales of the Concorde aircraft; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

The proportion of development expenditure recovered will depend on sales, and I would prefer not to speculate about this at the present stage.

Photo of Mr Joel Barnett Mr Joel Barnett , Heywood and Royton

Implicit in that reply is the fact that the true net cost is not known to the Minister. Is that not totally out of line with his philosophy of not allowing open-ended commitments? In those circumstances, does not the Minister owe it to the House to tell us what it is if he has made the estimate for which the Question asks?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

The proportion of development cost to be recovered depends on sales, whatever the net cost is. What I said was, therefore, perfectly correct, and the hon. Gentleman is arguing from a false premise.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , West Derbyshire

As sales are so vital to any project, what is my right hon. Friend doing to encourage sales throughout the Commonwealth, and particularly in Australia, New Zealand and India?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I have indicated previously how extremely difficult it is for firms to mount a major sales operation until they are in a position to give firm indications of the aircraft specification and operating characteristics. We hope that this stage will be reached quite early in the new year.

Photo of Mr William Rodgers Mr William Rodgers , Stockton-on-Tees

The right hon. Gentleman explained the other day that he could not say what the selling cost would be until he had discussed the matter with his French counterpart. Is it not possible now for him to say what the unit cost of production of the aircraft will be, excluding the development cost, on certain alternative assumptions about sales?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

That is another question. As for the selling price, I have indicated that this is a matter which I shall be discussing next week with M. Mondon.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

asked the Minister of Aviation Supply what consideration is now being given to the planning of a stretched version of the Concorde.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I think at this stage we must concentrate on making a success of the present design.

Photo of Mr Neil Marten Mr Neil Marten , Banbury

While I naturally agree with my right hon. Friend about that, may I ask him, in view of the noises that are coming out of the American Congress and the effect of the BAC311 cancellation on B.A.C., whether he agrees that the Government should now be pressing to get some thinking going on a stretched version of the Concorde as a measure of confidence in the success of this project?

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

I do not entirely follow my hon. Friend's argument. I think that if the American decision is adhered to, there may be a much longer life for the standard version, with a postponement of any need to stretch it.