Skip to main content

Civil Aircraft

Volume 933: debated on Monday 13 June 1977

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has yet made any decisions upon Government support for civil aircraft construction.

I have nothing to add to my answer to the hon. Member on 25th April.

Does the Minister understand that at the Paris aerospace salon during the last fortnight one of the main talking points among manufacturers, politicians and civil servants from countries abroad has been that the British Government have no policy whatever towards civil aerospace? Has he yet made up his mind whether it is the Gov- ernment's intention to produce a new design unilaterally or in collaboration with other countries, and, if so, with whom?

The hon. Gentleman obviously attended a different Paris air show from the one I did, because the British Aerospace stand under public ownership, and the British Aerospace chalet under public ownership, attracted admiration and support from all over the world. When I attended the French Prime Minister's lunch on Saturday I also noted that France has now found it necessary to extend public ownership in its aircraft industry in order to deal with the problems. Discussions have been taking place—they took place on Friday and again today—between British Aerospace and its Continental partners to explore the possibilities of sensible, commercial, profitable collaboration.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the desperate employment situation in British Aerospace at Hatfield? When are the consultations which he has mentioned likely to come to fruition, and when are we likely to have a decision about the HS146?

In general the consultations should come to some initial conclusions next month. I made it my business to discuss the HS146 in particular with one of the members of the board of British Aerospace in Paris on Saturday. I can assure my hon. Friend that the possibilities of the HS146 are being examined in a particularly positive way.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) asked the Minister not who owned the aerospace industry but what his policy was. The Minister gave about one line of waffle at the end of his statement. Can he tell us what the policy is?

The one line of waffle was rather succinct waffle at any rate. It is our intention, now that we have the largest aircraft industry in Western Europe under one ownership, to maintain an independent, viable, British aircraft industry that will provide maximum employment in our factories and also profit for the British taxpayer—something which has been lacking over many years under private ownership.

Can the Minister say how the Government intend to deal with the apparent divergence of policies between the British and French aircraft industries in wishing respectively to develop an improved version of the BAC111 on the one hand and an improved version of the Airbus on the other? Will he assure the House that any discussion of these matters will be based on a realistic assessment of the market and the capability of the aircraft rather than on political problems of employment in both industries?

The one thing I have made absolutely clear is that we are not interested in political planes. We are interested in commercial planes which provide employment and make money. The conflict would not be between the X11 and the Airbus; it would be between the X11 and the A200. What British Aerospace has made clear to me is that, if possible, provided it is commercially sensible, it wants to assemble the compatible features of all contenders to make commercially the best plane. There is no amour propre. It wants the best plane.


asked the Secretary of State for Industry what action he is taking to encourage the British aircraft industry to produce aircraft that are both quiet and economical.

My Department continues to encourage the development of quieter aircraft technology with funds provided under its aircraft and aero-engine general research and development programme. Expenditure on noise research in 1976–77 totalled £2·7 million, going both to Government research and development establishments and to industry. In defining these research programmes, my Department lays due stress on the need for them to lead to aircraft that are economical, both for the manufacturer and for the operator. The Government also continue to work for international agreement on improved noise standards for civil aircraft. These negotiations are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade.

What are the Government doing to encourage the industry to accept that the production of quiet and economical aircraft is likely to lead to better export performance, and to act accordingly?

I can only presume that the hon. Gentleman knows that the 747, the Lockheed Tri-Star and the DC10 are already examples of quieter aircraft with quieter engines in production. I hope he also recognises that the latest versions of planes like the BAC111 are themselves examples of quieter engine technology.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the WOR radio station in New York has alleged that the Port of New York Authority is suppressing a report that the Boeing 707 at New York is far noisier than the Concorde and far more numerous in its nights? In view of the fact that this aircraft seems to be about the noisiest civil aircraft flying, can the Minister say what steps he is taking to suppress this aircraft's anti-social noise?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman realises that this subject is a bit more complicated than hearing a report on one New York radio station. I hope he will also take into account that this matter is currently the subject of an appeal in New York and that it is probably best to await the outcome of that.

Are any steps being taken by British aerospace industries, perhaps in conjunction with United States and French aerospace industries, to begin to explore the possibility of a Concorde Mark 2 which, while continuing to be a supersonic aeroplane, would carry more passengers and tend to conserve fuel more than the Mark 1?

That is an ingenious way for the hon. Gentleman to ask another specific question. I hope that that will encourage him to table a specific Question about it.