The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about making decisions about the specification of this aircraft for some time. In view of the uncertainty that exists in the Royal Air Force about even the number of Phantoms which will be at its service, should not the right hon. Gentleman rapidly agree on some figure in respect of the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft?
Certainly not without knowing the cost and other details about the programme. But I have always made it clear to the House that we planned to take decisions on specification in April. That is what we plan to do. The hon. Member ought to remember that.
Can my right hon. Friend give any estimate of the approximate difference in cost between designing this aircraft purely for an interceptor rôle and for a strike and interceptor rôle?
A great deal depends on the precise operation characteristics of the interceptor or strike aircraft. I can say that if this aircraft were designed purely for an interceptor rôle, as now seen, we could accommodate the characteristics required of it as a strike aircraft within that ceiling.