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Royal Air Force (Transport Aircraft)

Volume 648: debated on Wednesday 8 November 1961

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asked the Minister of Defence what consultations he had with the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for Air before approval was given to the order for five Vickers VC 10 aircraft for the Royal Air Force Transport Force, having regard to the present limited ability of this Force to move heavy equipment for the Army over long distances.

There were full consultations before the order was placed. The VC 10 is required primarily to transport men. The Belfast has been ordered to transport heavy equipment over long distances.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not sufficient authority to prevent air marshals from ordering luxury jet aircraft to transport themselves round the world when the desperate need of the transport force is for freight-carrying long-distance aircraft such as the Belfast and the Lockheed CI 30? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that freight-carrying aircraft can also carry passengers, though not in luxury?

I agree with the hon. Member's last point. The VC 10 is not ordered to carry senior officers about but to carry a very large number of men very quickly, which is exactly in accordance with need.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the country requires both types of aircraft as soon as it can get them, and with particular emphasis on freight-carrying?

I agree, but the VC 10 is ordered as a quick and massive transporter of large numbers of armed men quickly about the world.

Has the right hon. Gentleman not a sense of priority? While all additional transport aircraft are welcome, we are reaching the point when we can carry men but not arms. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his present policy will mean that the men will find that they have neither the weapons with which to fight nor the additional support and that their transport will move men only?

I do not agree. The Britannia is valuable as a long-haul heavy aircraft.

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it has far too small a cargo cross-section?