Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the report that a large order for helicopters is about to be placed is not true? If it is true, can he say what there will be for the United Kingdom aircraft industry as a result of such a contract?
I can confirm that no part of this proposed arrangement has yet come into force. As it was set out in the communiqué, the arrrangement is that we and the French should jointly develop an airportable support helicopter, a light observation helicopter and a utility helicopter. What we hope to do is to divide the work so that we can provide equally for our joint needs.
Would the right hon. Gentleman try and negotiate with the French that, in any further contracts placed, a main contract will be placed either with a British or a French firm with obligations to subcontract to the other country, rather than splitting the contract into two?
That is the object of the helicopter arrangement—that one company, either in this country or in France, would make the helicopter, and it would be arranged in the kind of way that the hon. Gentleman suggests. However, it is not possible to do that for the existing contracts.
The operational requirements are agreed and, as was announced in the communiqué, the companies both in France and in this country are working further to complete the detailed specifications.