I am grateful to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East (Mr. Palmer) and to the Under-Secretary of State for allowing me to insert a word or two, as it were with a fish-slice, between their speeches, in order to support my neighbour, the hon. Member for Bristol, North-East, in his contentions about the success of Concorde.
When the recent British Airways report was published, considerable attention was drawn to the £17 million loss stated there as having flowed from Concorde. The size of that loss partly reflects the short life expectancy expected as the basis for the depreciation charge in the accounts, which is roughly half the average depreciation of the rest of the British Airways fleet used in its accountancy practices. Perhaps it should be different, but that is a very large discrepancy.
In respect of Concorde, it seems to me that the most significant figures in the report are the average hours flown per aircraft. For Concorde this was 782 hours per year as compared with over 4,000 hours for the Boeing 747s and the other aircraft—all of them, therefore, flying at about three times the amount that Concorde flew.
The reason for that is not technical but the lack of routes. The hon. Gentleman referred quite properly to that aspect. We should be particularly keen to know today whether there are any developments as far as Malaysia is concerned, or whether any improvements can be made on the Atlantic routes. The question of an increase in the routes is, of course, very much in the Government's court as well as in British Airways' court.
The future of the aircraft industry is much under discussion, and will be discussed a great deal before we meet again. In Bristol and the surrounding areas we expect to see, whatever decisions are made, that the tremendous investment in skill and money that has been made to get us where we are in supersonic travel is used to buy us a place in the next developments of supersonic travel. That is one of the aspects of the aircraft industry decisions at which we shall be looking very closely.