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Tsr2 Aircraft

Volume 641: debated on Friday 5 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on the progress which has been made in the development of the TSR2 aircraft.

No, Sir. I have nothing to add to what has already been said on this subject, and I doubt whether periodic statements on projects of this kind serve any useful purpose.

Surely, the right hon. Gentleman realises that since we first heard of this aircraft in December, 1958, a great deal has been said about this machine, which has pursued a very ragged course, since the development order was submitted last October? Can he tell us when we may expect to see the prototype? Secondly, can he say how much the aircraft will cost now as compared with the estimated cost when it was first projected?

The Russians do not inform us about the progress of their tactical bombers, and I do not see why we should announce ours.

On the second point raised by my hon. Friend, could not the Minister inform the House what was the estimated cost three years ago, and to what extent it has varied recently?

No. The Question does not refer to the cost. If the hon. Gentleman likes to put a Question down about the finances he can do so, but I do not give any guarantee as to the kind of answer he will receive.

Would not the Minister agree that the Russians do not enjoy a Parliamentary form of Government, and that there is something to be said for the British Parliament being kept informed about this very costly development, which it is very difficult to bring under Parliamentary control?

I accept that there is some distinction to be drawn between the two systems, but at the same time I ask the House to ponder well before pressing for information about the exact progress made with regard to important weapons. This, I think, is wrong.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this Question was originally put down to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Air and transferred to the right hon. Gentleman because it was assumed that he had all the knowledge about the costs and progress of the aircraft? Can he tell us how the original estimated cost compares with the figure which is now expected for the completion of this aircraft?

No. This Question asks about progress which is being made upon it. As I said, I do not wish to make a statement on it.