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Volume 888: debated on Monday 10 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Industry when he now expects the Concorde aircraft to go into operational service.

As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade said in reply to the hon. Member for New. bury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on 26th February, the question of the date on which British Airways and Air France should begin commercial services with Concorde will be a matter for discussion at the Secretary of State's forthcoming meeting with the French Minister for Transport which is to take place in London on 25th March 1975.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital that Concorde goes into service at the earliest possible moment? Does he further agree that not until Concorde is in service shall we get foreign orders for the aircraft? I impress upon the Ministry that it is vital for jobs in my area—I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry will agree with this—that the aircraft gets into operational service at the earliest possible moment.

I entirely agree that it is of the greatest importance to ensure that Concorde is brought into operation at the earliest possible moment. That is why we are taking every step to ensure that that happens. Provided that the certification programme can be completed later this year we hope that it will be possible to start limited service before the end of this year.

Is the Minister aware that among the steps that we hope the Government will take is that of ensuring that both the British Embassy in Washington and British Airways do everything possible to help those in America arguing against Senator Proxmire's Bill, so that the aircraft can enter service in the United States at the same time as it enters service elsewhere?

We are doing all that we can to assist in the discussions to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I think he will be pleased to know that the recent publication by the US Federal Aviation Administration of an environmental impact statement on Concorde is an important step forward. Of course, there are other steps to be taken. There has to be a period of public hearings and representations before the FAA decision is finally made. We shall seek to assist in those disussions in the way that the hon. Gentleman has described.