Helicopters (Army Requirements)

Oral Answers to Questions — Ministry of Aviation – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 5th February 1964.

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Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North 12:00 am, 5th February 1964

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement on the arrangements for ordering helicopters to meet the future needs of the Army.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

asked the Minister of Aviation when it is expected that an order will be placed for small helicopters for use by the Army; and when deliveries can be expected.

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

The only Army requirement for helicopters which is outstanding is for a light helicopter. With regard to the placing of an order, I have nothing to add to the statement I made on this subject on 29th January.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

May we have an assurance that if the American light helicopter, the Hiller, is decided on, no attempt will be made to transfer production away from Short Bros. & Harland, which has the licensing arrangement?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I cannot give an assurance on a matter which is not settled. It is a hypothetical question, but I know of no such threat.

Photo of Sir Arthur Harvey Sir Arthur Harvey , Macclesfield

Leaving aside the merits of the various types involved, does my right hon. Friend realise that it is generally known that the Army put its specification for a helicopter nine months ago and that, with all the various operations in Africa and the Far East, it is in desperate need of this equipment? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this decision will be arrived at in the very near future?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence is very much alive to this and I have little doubt that a decision will be announced very soon.

Mr. Lee:

Some of us are becoming worried about the apparent inability of the British aircraft industry to produce helicopters of the sort we need. Why is it, with the practical monopoly of Westlands, that, whether it be civil helicopters for B.E.A. or military helicopters, we cannot guarantee production of suitable machines from our own industry?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that some very fine British helicopters are now flying—the Whirlwind, the Wessex, the Belvedere and the Scout. The Army requires a very light helicopter which is important to it in operations currently in progress. For us to develop a new helicopter would not only be expensive but would mean that the Army would not get what it needed for current operations. Until only the other day shooting was going on in Borneo and Eastern Malaysia for which helicopters of this kind would have been extremely important.

Photo of Mr Frederick Gough Mr Frederick Gough , Horsham

Since there are, apparently, only three American firms contending for this order, will my right hon. Friend give an absolute assurance that each of these different helicopters will be given the same impartial and thorough examination? Bearing in mind the considerable differences in costs, will he also assure us that the decision will be given in the interest both of the Army and the taxpayer?

Photo of Mr Julian Amery Mr Julian Amery , Preston North

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall examine all helicopter designs submitted to us with a view to seeing how far they meet our requirements and, of course, in doing this we shall take into consideration cost and availability of deliveries.