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Volume 827: debated on Monday 6 December 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a further statement on the Concorde.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the most disquieting features of the whole exercise has been the incredible delay in coming to a decision while millions are spent producing Concordes which may subsequently not be given the go-ahead? Would he answer three short questions? First, what is the latest estimate of the cost of developing Concorde? Secondly, how much money has yet to be spent on development? Thirdly, what are the number of aircraft required to be made to produce the break-even figure on manufacturing costs alone, not including development?

I am not at all clear what the hon. Gentleman means by referring to any delay in reaching a decision. The latest estimate of the cost, which I have given to the House, is £885 million in toto. That has not been altered, although I shall certainly not guarantee that it will not be. So far as I recollect, just under £400 million has been spent. The break-even figure depends on the price set: it is, therefore, not yet possible to calculate it.

Would my right hon. Friend agree that it would greatly help the success of the Concorde project if there were an early and satisfactory settlement of the industrial dispute at Rolls-Royce, Patchway?

Could it now be widely publicised that Concorde is one of the quietest productions which aviation has ever created?

There is a later Question on publicity, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman and publicity is being given to that.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether he can now state when he expects the manufacturers to receive the first firm orders for Concorde.

The manufacturers hope to receive the first firm orders in the first part of 1972.

Can my right hon. Friend say when B.O.A.C. will be in a position to place a firm order? Is he also aware that those of us who enthusiastically support the Concorde project would prefer a voluntary order from B.O.A.C. to any wing twisting or subsidising?

I accept what my hon. Friend says. I assure him that B.O.A.C. is in no way delaying progress but, like any other customer, is assessing how best it can fit this aircraft into its route patterns.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there are likely to be further authorisations for long-dated items for Concorde to be produced by B.A.C. and Sud in advance of the orders he expects in the early part of next year?

This matter has to be considered jointly with the French. At the moment there is no urgent need for further authorisations. It will be a matter for consultation between me and my French colleagues.

Will my right hon. Friend tell us how many jobs are directly dependent upon the continuance of the Concorde programme in this country?


asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry for what sum the claim has been made for damage to St. David's Cathedral by Concorde's sonic boom; and whether it has been settled.

Will the Minister look at the open letter in The Guardian today which is signed by a large number of distinguished people and hon. Members on both sides of the House? Will he also look again at the whole question of whether Concorde really is in the national interest? Will he review the whole issue and come before the House with a full report?

That is another question. This matter has been looked at and the answer is that we believe that it is in the national interest.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will now seek to encourage all Government organs for which he is responsible to advertise and promote Concorde.