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Volume 894: debated on Monday 23 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will make a further statement about the introduction of Concorde into airline service with British Airways.

I currently expect British Airways to start commercial services with Concorde at the beginning of 1976 simultaneously with Air France.

Will the Minister say whether he is negotiating supersonic overflying rights in the Middle East in regard to opening a service to Bahrain and whether he has such rights in the case of India and Indonesia to enable the aeroplane to fly to the Far East? Will he say also whether the aircraft might be allowed to fly to New York, and a word about fares?

Discussions are progressing with all the countries which will be concerned with a view to obtaining the necessary clearances for overflying and the other matters to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I do not think it would be helpful, in view of the fact that the discussions are progressing, if I were to add to that at this stage.

Will the hon. Gentleman say whether the question of rights to fly supersonic aircraft on various routes has arisen in any way during discussion of the new policy guidelines for civil aviation?

The hon. Gentleman will have to await the Questions which my right hon. Friend will be answering on the matter of the policy review. Therefore, he must be patient.

Will the Minister say whether the British Airways Concorde contract contains an escape clause which would apply should operating rights in the United States not be forthcoming?

I have no reason to suppose that those operational rights will not be forthcoming. The contractual question that would arise if we were disappointed in that respect would then have to be considered. I do not think it would be appropriate for me to add to that at this stage.


asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will seek a meeting with his French Government counterpart in order to ensure a co-ordinated Anglo-French approach to future negotiations concerning Concorde for which his Department is responsible.

There is already very close collaboration with the French Government in negotiations concerning Concorde for which my Department is responsible. Accordingly my right hon. Friend has no immediate plans to meet his French counterpart to discuss these matters.

is the Under-Secretary aware that Concorde has some powerful and unscrupulous enemies, particularly in the United States? Does he agree that recent congressional hearings have shown the lengths to which some American aircraft manufacturers will go to promote and defend the rights of their companies? Does he accept that Britain and France have an overriding economic and political interest in Concorde? On that basis, will he at least assure the House that the support for the project previously manifested by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, which was always self-evident, is still available and as strong from those members of Her Majesty's Government who now have responsibility for Concorde?

There is absolutely no reason to question the support of my Department and the Department of Industry, under its present Secretary of State, for this project. Indeed, I made this clear to the hon. Gentleman in a debate which he initiated some little time ago. Moreover, the representations of both the British and French Governments and industries at the hearings in the United States were very strong indeed. I do not think that it would be helpful to engage in name calling against the opponents of the Concorde project. Certainly neither I nor my right hon. Friend intend to follow the hon. Gentleman in that regard.

Does my hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members think that Concorde will be a gigantic financial disaster? Will he ensure that, in any cuts in public expenditure, education and social services take priority over this huge pit into which money is being poured so that the manufacturing capacity which is at present devoted to Concorde can be released to something more socially useful?

I do not accept the premise upon which my hon. Friend bases his question. I do not regard this remarkable aircraft, which involves great technological advance, as being a disaster. Cuts, of course, are not matters for me.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of the 2½ million people living within earshot of Heathrow Airport would heave a sigh of relief if they were to hear that the Concorde project had fallen through, because of the appalling noise that it is expected to make? Will he ensure that Concorde is not allowed to fly in and out of Heathrow until he is satisfied that its noise levels are acceptable to the people of London?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman should have sought to exaggerate the situation concerning noise. He knows perfectly well that it constitutes no greater noise nuisance than the Boeing 707 and various other aircraft. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity, as will others, of testing the veracity of that claim when the endurance flying begins in July.