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Avro 748 And Dart Herald Aircraft

Volume 655: debated on Monday 5 March 1962

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asked the Minister of Aviation why the Avro 748 is preferred to the Handley Page Dart Herald as a replacement transport aircraft.


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state the cost per aircraft to be paid for the Avro 748, the comparable tender price per aircraft of the Handley Page Dart Herald, military version, and the total extra expenditure involved in his recent decision to purchase the Avro 748 in lieu of the Dart Herald as a close support military transport aircraft for the Royal Air Force.


asked the Minister of Aviation why the Avro 748 is preferred to the Handley Page Dart Herald as a replacement transport aircraft.

Both these aircraft are first class and both are distinguished examples of British aircraft production techniques. There is in practice no decisive difference between them, either in suitability for the purpose required or in the financial obligations which they would represent. The actual price to be paid for the aircraft will be determined by fixed price negotiations between my Department and the Hawker Siddeley Group and the contract is naturally conditional upon satisfactory terms being agreed. It is not the practice to give details of the manufacturers' quotations in these cases, but the Government is satisfied that, having taken all the relevant factors into consideration, including all those concerned with cost, maintenance, operational performance and possibilities for future development, the choice of the Avro 748 in this particular rôle is the right one.

Is it not a fact that Handley Page is already jigged and tooled and able to get on with this job whereas Avro has not reached this stage and that this may possibly result in twelve months' delay? Is it not also the fact that only five Dart Heralds will be required for every six Avros, and does not this mean that there will be a difference of between £3 million and £10 million in the cost to the taxpayer as a result of putting the order where it is at present?

How can my right hon. Friend expect the House to be able to judge the wisdom or otherwise of his decision if we are not given information about the cost of the aircraft? Why is he so coy about it? Could it be because the Avro 748 will cost approximately £100,000 per aircraft more than the Dart Herald and that the extra cost to the taxpayer of this doctrinaire decision will run not into hundreds of thousands but millions of pounds?

I am not in the least coy about the subject. I have not even yet begun to negotiate the price for this aircraft, and in any event even if I had it has never been the practice to disclose quotations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that there is no difference either in carrying capacity or economically between the two aircraft, because it has been quite freely said that there is an advantage which the right hon. Gentleman is not taking up because of the failure to enter into shotgun marriages and things of that sort?

A lot of things are very freely said which are not necessarily true. These aircraft are not identical. There are differences between them, mostly marginal, some to the advantage of one and some to the other. Taking all the factors into consideration, I am absolutely satisfied that we have made the right choice.

If my right hon. Friend has not yet negotiated the price, how can he say that the Avro 748 is to be preferred?

Because the cost difference between these two aircraft is in any event marginal and I have to take into account all the factors, some of which I have enumerated.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how horrified we all are in the House today about the word "marginal" used by himself when reference is made lightheartedly to millions of pounds in connection with his Department's expenditure? Is it not the case that the Avro 748 will cost nearly £100,000 more per aircraft, and and is it not a fact that if this transaction goes through it will cause a widespread drop in the morale of the aircraft industry when it realises that merit is not important and doctrinaire political considerations come first?

The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that it has nothing to do with doctrinaire considerations. This is a case in which all relevant considerations have to be taken into account, including the declared and, as I understand it, accepted policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the aircraft industry; and, on full consideration of these matters, the choice has been made. I cannot choose them both. Somebody is bound to be unhappy about the choice.