I beg to move,
That this House condemns Her Majesty's Government for having made a project, of which they had no firm assurance and which has now collapsed, the core both operationally and industrially of the long term aircraft programme of this country.
For nearly three years now we have been living in the golden age of planning. We have had the much blazoned National Plan, which was torn up within a year. We then had the great Defence Review, heralded with so much éclat by the Secretary of State for Defence. Having applied his superior intellect to all the great problems of defence in a way, so he claimed, which had never been done before, he came to the House, like a Moses among Defence Ministers, and handed down the tablets. Alas, as we now see, those tablets proved to have been made of paper and not of stone, and they, too, are now torn up ready for the bonfire.
The Secretary of State for Defence, ably assisted in the early days by the present Home Secretary, started off by destroying all the British projects for future military aircraft which were then in existence. Thus, having created his own void, he started to fill it with his own chosen projects, chief of which was the Anglo-French variable geometry project which, to use his own well-known words, was to be
both operationally and industrially, the core of our long-term aircraft programme.
There can be no doubt about the seriousness of the position which has
arisen with the demise of that project. Whatever else he did, the Secretary of State certainly did not exaggerate when he described the AFVG as the "core" of the Government's programme. As he himself said in this House on 28th February this year:
… the point which I want to make is that without this project there would be no design work for the British aircraft industry after work on the Concord finishes, and without that design work them would be no future for the aircraft industry not only in Britain, but in Europe."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February. 1967; Vol. 742, c. 390–1.]
Therefore, as I say, there is no doubt about the critical nature of the position in which we now find ourselves.
Perhaps in passing, in relation to those words of the Secretary of State which I have just recalled, it is interesting to note the importance which the Government have recently attached to Concord in view of the fact that they tried hard to cancel it, with everything else, at the end of 1964, and would have succeeded in cancelling it but for two things: first, the French Government insisted on maintaining it; and, secondly, the Conservative Government had included terms in the Concord agreement which prevented a sudden, arbitrary unilateral withdrawal. What a pity it is that the Labour Government did not include equivalent terms in the AFVG project. Had they done so, the story might have been very different today.
What are we to do now? That is what the House and the country will surely want to hear from the Government this afternoon. I wonder how the Secretary of State will reply to this debate. I trust that he will not try to bluff it out by being even more arrogant, even more pleased with himself, even more bombastic than we have come to expect. Nor do we want from the right hon. Gentleman any more of the famous Healey new arithmetic. We had more than enough of that on 1st May in the debate on the F111.
It was reported that when the present Rime Minister took office he said that he was going to be the most political Prime Minister since Lloyd George. I think whatever else he has not succeeded in, he has certainly succeeded in that. Like master, like dog. I think it was Balfour w'-to said of Lloyd George that he used to treat figures like adjectives. That is how the Secretary of State treats figures when he indulges in his new arithmetic.
We have had the "phoney" arithmetic. We have had the blinding with science. We have had the pride, and we have had the fall. Now let us have a touch of humility, or, better still, perhaps, let us have a new Secretary of State. What we want today is for the Government to give us not self-justification, not bombast, not "phoney" arithmetic, but hard, serious factual information about what the Government will do now to correct the critical situation in which we find ourselves. It is only the Government who can give us and the country this answer.
On 5th July the Secretary of State seemed to suggest that the Opposition should have told him what to do. No Opposition can do that, and the Secretary of State knows that better than anybody else. Indeed, as the present Prime Minister said when he was Leader of the Opposition:
it is interesting to see that the Prime Minister used that word even then—
until an Opposition become the Government they do not possess … the secret military information required …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1964; Vol. 696, c. 1404.]
So we cannot, any more than any other Opposition, tell the Government of the day precisely what they should do.
On 1st March this year the Secretary of State told the House:
… we have contingency plans for all circumstances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 479.]
We want to hear what they are. Somewhat earlier, on 30th November, 1966, in an aviation debate, I put a precise question to the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley), who was then Minister of Aviation. I should like to quote what I asked him and what he replied. I asked:
Can the Minister assure the House that in the unfortunate event of the Anglo-French V.G. project falling to the ground, the Government have done contingency planning for the alternative?
This is what the Minister replied:
I can give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance. We are very well advanced with contingency planning about what we should do. We would hope to make an announcement almost immediately if it failed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 30th November, 1966; Vol. 737, c. 430–1.]
We ask for that announcement today. If it is not available today, the Government, through the mouth of the then Minister of Aviation, was deliberately misleading the House and the country.
On 5th July, just over a week ago, when the Secretary of State for Defence announced finally the collapse of the AFVG agreement—having played with words in order to stall the news a week earlier—he sought to excuse himself to the House on two grounds—that it was not his fault, that the French had done it; and that the Opposition should have told him that he was making a mistake and what he ought to have done instead. Both lame duck, if not dead duck, excuses. Of course, the Opposition welcomed the AFVG agrement and wanted it to succeed. It was, after all, the Conservative Government who started Anglo-French co-operation in aircraft projects.
That is a point that we can argue with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) about on another occasion.
It was the Conservative Government who started this. It was even a Conservative Government who had the first exploratory talks with the French about the possibility of co-operation on a variable geometry project. But, we never put all our eggs into one international basket. Nor did we ever support the present Government in doing so. Indeed, we censured them severely for cancelling every single advanced British project. International co-operation, however desirable and vital in the long run, is bound to be uncertain and to carry grave risks in the early stages.
The French Government were never so foolish as to destroy all their national projects. They never put the whole of their defence and technological capability at the mercy of an uncontrollable veto by a foreign Government. When we—I mean the then Conservative Government—committed our hopes for the most advanced technology in civil aviation to the Anglo-French project, the Concord, we made an agreement which prevented one party to that agreement from making an arbitrary and sudden withdrawal. We were criticised for doing so, but how much wiser the present Government would have been if they had done the same with the AFVG.
I am puzzled about this. The right hon. Gentleman says that he would not have put all our eggs into one basket. He says that he is in favour of Anglo-French co-operation. Does this mean that he would have had the second British project running parallel? Otherwise, what does it mean?
It means exactly what I said; and if the hon. Gentleman will examine what France is doing he will get some idea of what we might have done. Certainly, we would not have cancelled all three of the British projects and put all our eggs in this one basket. When we made the agreement about the Anglo-French Concord we put in terms which prevented sudden and arbitrary withdrawal—
If Her Majesty's Government could not, or would not, do the same over the AFVG, they should never have gambled on one international project to this extent. If they were to depend one such project to this extent, they should have sought the same sort of watertight agreement which we had over Concord. It is for that gamble that we condemn the Government.
We also condemn them for their foolish, blind, wishful thinking and overoptimistic persistence in this matter to the very last moment, in spite of all the warnings about what might be ahead. Anyone with contacts in France knew, and has known for a long time, of the risks and danger—the danger which for many months has amounted almost to a probability—that the French Government, for a combination of budgetary, military and political reasons, would, in the end, be unwilling to proceed with the AFVG project.
Whatever the Secretary of State may say—and whatever the French Government may say publicly in their statements about the only reason being budgetary—anybody who has had any contacts in France for any length of time knows that military and political reasons as well are involved, and that they have been clear for all to see for a long time.
It is quite normal for Governments to limit the reasons which they give in public statements. This is a well established attitude and habit. I repeat mat anybody with contacts in France knows that there are other reasons as well. There are budgetary reasons certainly, but other reasons as well, which, in combination, always—or, at least, for a very long time—made the cancellation of this project by France a distinct possibility, to put it very mildly indeed.
We have certainly welcomed, supported and wished success to the AFVG project from the very beginning. However, also from the very beginning my hon. Friends and I have warned the Government. For example, I gave a strong general warning about the risks attached to international co-operation when I spoke in the Plowden debate in February of last year. I said:
Several practical warnings must be sounded if success is to be achieved. It would be only too easy for us as politicians, to grasp at the concept of European co-operation as a lifebuoy to cling to, and then to find, in a few years' time, that we were no better off."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 917.]
That was a general warning.
In the defence debate a month later—in March, 1966, just before the opening of the election campaign—my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) ex-
pressed such strong doubts about the AFVG that he was accused by the then Minister of Aviation of throwing
… everything but the kitchen sink at the variable geometry concept."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1935.]
That could hardly be called uncritical support.
Indeed, in the aviation debate on 21st November last I spoke of our concern at the Government's decision to make the AFVG both the operational and industrial core of our long-term aircraft programme. Referring to that "operational and industrial core" statement, I said:
Those were strong and definitive words, and we on this side of the House warmly welcomed them. But we assumed, as, I think, we have the right to do, that before such firm and definitive words were used by any Government in an annual Defence White Paper, they would have been based upon some firm foundations
I went on:
Now we see that they were not. We now see that it all depends upon a decision by the French Government. The core of our future aircraft programme, militarily and operationally, is exposed to the veto of the French Government. In international co-operative ventures both parties must have their own rights. But before something is presented to the country and the world as the core of our future programme, militarily and industrially, surely an agreement with the other Government should have been reached, so that we were no longer dependent, as we were then and apparently still are, on decisions not taken at the time and still not taken by the French Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1966; Vol. 736, c. 950.]
There could hardly have been a clearer and more specific warning.
The Secretary of State came to the House on 18th January of this year full of complacent certainty and pride in the agreement which he had made and said, among other things, that we could now agree that the industry had a stable programme of military aircraft. We mixed our welcome with some scepticism, and a little later we drew attention to the uncertainty of the French position, which had been explicitly stated in the announcement on behalf of the French Cabinet by Mr. Bourges, the Secretary of State for Information in France. Our doubts were brushed aside. Indeed, the Secretary of State's hon. Friend, the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth), who I am pleased to see in
his place today, asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was
… aware that the absence of congratulations from hon. Members opposite is rather significant?".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c. 407.]
It was indeed.
I could give many examples of warnings issued by my hon. Friends and I. Similar warnings came repeatedly from the best informed correspondents in the Press. I could quote many examples. However, in spite of all these warnings the Secretary of State plunged blindly on, carried away by the euphoria of his good personal relations with M. Messmer and pride in his own cleverness. Whoever else might be wrong, he must be right and, in the end, all other men and Governments of intelligence must walk in step. But they have not, and, to quote President Truman's dictum, "The buck stops here".
Now the thing that matters most to this country is to mount an urgent rescue operation. The Government's operational and industrial core has turned out to be rotten. What is the new and real core which we are now to put in its place? It is now the Government's urgent duty to put new and, this time, solid, proposals before the country, and without delay.
We agree with the Prime Minister that no Opposition can do this in specific and detailed terms, but we can and shall indicate the essential requirements which we believe must be made. The first essential is to make good the gap in our defence equipment. This could be done—and, I suppose, from the purely short-term defence point of view, probably most easily and quickly done—by a new purchase of foreign aircraft—more F111s or a new purchase of one of the other many American aircraft either in production or on the stocks.
However, I wish to state clearly and catergorically, on behalf of the Opposition, that this is not the way in which it should be done. Our theme has been, and still is—as I made clear in, for example, my speech in the defence debate on 8th March of last year—that it is a matter of vital importance for Britain to maintain an independent defence capability. It is vital in two senses. First, in the sense of maintaining a structure of forces and equipment which enables us as a country to play our chosen rôle in a wide variety of circumstances and areas of the world. Second, in the sense of maintaining an independent and industrial technological capability to produce, if not all, at least a wide range of modern sophisticated weapons and equipment. We understood that this was also the Government's policy, and we say to them strongly today that they must not now be panicked into giving it up.
This does not mean that in the future—
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the important question of making good the gap in our defence requirements, will he tell us whether it is his view that one of the requirements is that the replacement aircraft should have the capability of operating in a Far Eastern rôle?
If the hon. Gentleman will be patient, I think that I had better make my own speech. I shall make some of those points clear, and no doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will make others clear if he catches the eye of the Chair later.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman will be patient and let me make my speech in my own way he will discover the Opposition's view on that. I have no doubt that he and the House will realise that I am speaking about it in relation to aviation and the aircraft industry. That is not the only aspect of the problem, but it is the one before the House today.
What I have said does not mean that in the future, any more than it meant in recent years under both Governments, we must build all our own aircraft and never buy from the United States or other countries. However, it does mean—and perhaps this is the answer which the hon. and learned Gentleman was seeking from me on this aspect—that we must always be engaged in building, with a strong part in the design leadership, at least one advanced military plane.
As the Secretary of State understands, judging by the quotation which I read earlier, the British aircraft industry without the AFVG would lack the necessary design work for the future, and there would be no future for it. He stated that, and we completely agree. There must, therefore, be a new British-led project. If practically possible, it should be a co-operative venture with Europe for both economic and political reasons, because we should be unwise to swing in disillusionment from the one wrong extreme of utter dependence on international co-operation to the other of having nothing to do with it at all.
With the lesson of our recent experience, and because of the great urgency, we shall now have to tackle the problem in a new way. We cannot afford to begin all over again with years of inter-Governmental meetings and committees. In our view, the best way of going about it would probably be for Britain firmly to make up her mind to build a new military plane and then say to other countries in Europe, in effect, "Here is a plane which we, Britain, will definitely build in any event. But in return for a firm order from you, we will offer you, if you wish, a share in both the design and production work."
That would be a basis on which we could maintain our necessary capability on terms which would ensure engineering and production efficiency. As I and many others have said in previous debates about aviation, whatever may be true about its being the only way to get international co-operation off the ground the sharing of production responsibility on a nationalistic basis between two countries does not lead to full efficiency and speed of production. Therefore, it is liable to carry within it the seeds of its own destruction. What I have just suggested would be a basis on which we could maintain our capability on terms which would also ensure efficiency and offer scope for genuine European co-operation and partnership.
I think that at this juncture that is the only option open to us. But to be successful the project which we would offer would have to be very closely designed to meet the future needs of our other European partners and, if possible, other countries as well. That is very important
The best hope might well be a plane that is not an exact copy of the AFVG, but one designed to replace the F104 in the middle of the 1970s, for which there must be a very large demand throughout Europe. Such a plane should probably incorporate the much-vaunted variable geometry principle, but before committing ourselves to that we should also consider the possibility of a further development of the principle of vector-thrust vertical take-off, in which Britain has undoubtedly obtained a world lead.
The maintenance of our independent capability involves not only a project for a military plane, but also a future programme for the aircraft industry as a whole. If our technological capacity cannot survive without involvement in military aircraft, it is equally obvious that it cannot survive by military projects alone and must have a complementary civil programme. The two are interdependent.
On the civil side as well there is, unfortunately, a crisis, aggravated, but not caused, by the AFVG debacle. When questioned on Tuesday about what would be the future core of the aircraft industry, the Minister of Technology weakly referred to the wide range of civil and military aircraft already under construction—all, incidentally, started by the Conservative Government. But both he and the Secretary of State for Defence know quite well that the current satisfactorily heavy order load for the aircraft industry does not provide a core for the future and will not ensure the exports, the capability or the technological spin-off which we need in the 1970s and onwards. To achieve these we must be committed to a number of complementary advanced projects.
The only truly advanced project which the industry has at the moment is the Concord, which, as I have already said, right hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to cancel. We must also have advanced subsonic projects. The key to unlock the problem is to be found in the decisions which must still be taken on the European airbus and the new aircraft for British European Airways, decisions which are being allowed by the Government to drag on untaken for a dangerously long time.
Let me make our position quite clear on the European airbus. If it can be done successfully and in time, we support it; but we also issue a grave warning about the dangers. The Government have a very heavy responsibility here which is not easy to discharge. But they cannot pass it on to anybody else to make up their minds. Ministerial meetings and inter-Governmental committees have been sitting on the project for years, and still no final hard decision has been taken. Time has now almost run out. At least one, and probably more, of the great companies in the United States are about to embark on producing a competitive aircraft. If the European airbus arrives too late, at the wrong price or with an uncompetitive performance, it will be the most disastrous white elephant of all time, from which the British and European aircraft industries will never be able to recover.
We see dangerous signs that the Government—and particularly the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology, are becoming as politically obsessed with the airbus as the Secretary of State for Defence has previously been with the AFVG. I repeat that we support the European airbus concept and would dearly like to see it carried to a successful conclusion. But the Government have very heavy responsibility which only they can bear for quickly making a hardheaded judgment as to its prospects and practicability. They will not be forgiven if they continue the international negotiations interminably to the point when either it is not produced or it is produced too late, and, at the same time, they refuse to proceed with the development of a British interim aeroplane such as the BAC211.
Lastly, the British aircraft industry, if it is to survive and if it is to provide us with the technological capability which we need, requires not only a programme but also certainty about its structure and organisation, and here, too, the Government have caused chaos. After dithering for almost a year about the central conclusions of the Plowden Committee's Report, they finally announced last November that they intended to bring about a merger between the two major airframe corporations, with a substantial Government participation in the equity of the new company. But another eight months have passed, and still nothing has been decided or done. Indeed, there are now increasing rumours that in the end the Government may find their policy impracticable to carry out.
We recognise that mergers of this scale and complexity are bound to take a long time to investigate and negotiate, but that is one strong reason among many others why they should be embarked upon only with very careful policy thinking beforehand and at a most carefully selected moment in time. In our view, as we have made clear, the policy thinking was half-baked and the timing disastrous.
However that may be, certainty about the future is now absolutely vital to confidence; vital to the forward planning of investment in the industry and vital to the stability and improvement of managerial and engineering efficiency. One of the Government's greatest handicaps in bringing that about is that they command neither confidence nor trust, and this lack has only been made worse by the outrageous speech which the Minister of Technology recently made when a guest of the Society of British Aerospace Companies at their recent annual dinner.
There is nothing wrong, let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, and there can be much right, in a Minister stating his policy firmly and even toughly, provided that it is done in the right way and on the right occasion, which, I would also say to him, is usually in private. But we cannot afford the damage done—and I am sorry to be offensive—by clever whizz-kids who mistake rudeness for the tough efficiency of an American tycoon.
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly read out any reference in that speech which was critical of the industry as distinct from being critical of himself and his colleagues who have been Ministers of Aviation? May we have the words?
I will not withdraw, nor, after all the time that I have occupied in giving way to hon. Members opposite, will I take further time of the House by quoting. But the criticisms of the Society considered within the context of its being a public occasion, must, I think, make it quite clear that what the right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion, when he was the guest of the industry, caused offence. It does not do good for Ministers to behave in that way.
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has read the speech. I ask him to read any reference from the speech, the whole text of which was released, which was in any way critical of the industry as compared with its criticism of the behaviour of himself and h s colleagues as Ministers of Aviation.
If the right hon. Gentleman is so satisfied that it is not there, let him place a copy of the speech in the Library, if it is not there already, and let hon. Members read it. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends who will speak today are well aware of what I mean.
I read the speech from cover to cover, from beginning to end—at least the public version of it. I have made these remarks having read the speech, but I do not think it appropriate to quote it and—
This is a very serious matter. The right hon. Gentleman has made a most serious allegation against my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology, but it turns out that he has no means whatever of substantiating it. Is it not one of the customs of the House that he should withdraw the allegation?
I have read the speech and I will not argue further about it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] It is useless hon. Members opposite shouting "Go on". I should have gone on and sat down some time ago if they had not been so persistent in their interruptions.
The Minister of Technology said:
In the old days the Minister of Aviation was an aviation man through and through and was seen as such by his Ministerial colleagues. He was the last of the big spenders. He could spot a Minister of Health with a big hospital programme and stop him dead in his tracks with a huge new and expensive aircraft project. Successive Ministers of Aviation secure victory after victory in the battle for a share of the public purse. As a result, they became the most hated and feared Ministers in Government. While their colleagues were grateful for anything they could wring from the Chancellor, Ministers of Aviation ran off with sums of money that made the Great Train Robbers look like schoolboys pinching pennies from a blind man's tin. Just consider the figures. Since the war the Government has spent £5,000 million in the aircraft industry. Of this, about £3,500 million has been spent on buying aircraft. The remainder—£1,500 million—on research and development. This is about six or seven times as much as Government expenditure in either the shipbuilding or motor vehicle industries.
On a point of order. It is evident that the right hon. Gentleman is reading that speech with interest and has never read it before. What he has read confirms entirely my right hon. Friend's statement that his remarks were directed entirely to Conservative Ministers of Aviation, and that the whole House knows that they were fully justified.
No point of order arises from that. The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Carr) is entitled to make his speech in his own way and to make such quotations as he wishes to make. Other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who take part in the debate will be able to comment on it in any way they wish.
I think that the hon. and learned Member cannot have looked at the export record of the industry nor can he have considered how much of the vast sum of money which was spent by the Government was spent directly as a customer buying their own products for their own use.
Be that as it may, the implication was quite clear to the industry and was so taken by the industry. The new President of the S.B.A.C., Mr. Hunt, in his speech, said with great restraint, that what Mr. Benn had failed to point out was that over the same period the aircraft industry sold £2,000 million worth of aircraft and engines in the export market against world competition, of which the majority earned dollars. I repeat, the right hon. Gentleman's remarks were extremely offensive to people in the industry.
We condemn the Government for having made a project, of which they had no firm assurance and which has now collapsed, the core both operationally and industrially of the long-term aircraft programme of this country. We demand a firm statement of future policies and we urge them to make such a statement today. I have outlined, on behalf of the Opposition, the areas in which decisions are needed and the broad lines which we think they ought to take. I end with two short quotations from the Secretary of State for Defence. I hope that he will ponder these two short quotations from his own past speeches and make them the serious text of the speech which he is about to deliver.
The first was given to us in the House on 22nd February, 1966, when the Secretary of State said that his Defence Review
has been essentially an exercise in political and military realism."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 240.]
The second quotation—on 3rd March, 1965—was this:
The basic problem is to choose the weapon system which is best and cheapest for the job in hand and then to ensure that it is produced …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1343.]
The ideas were right. Only the competence and integrity of purpose were lacking.
I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) should have spoiled a good second half of his speech with remarks which were clearly misrepresentation and for which I think, on reflection, he will recognise that he should have apologised.
There was a great deal in what he had to say in the serious and constructive part of his speech of which I and my right hon. Friends would want to take very careful notice, although I must say—I shall make this clear in the course of my speech—that I do not endorse all of his ideas.
It is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary—I understand why—to lace this serious and constructive contribution to our common study of what is a difficult problem with such a mass of triviality and humbug. At least, the debate gives me an opportunity to tell the full story of the AFVG and to describe the issues raised by the French decision to withdraw.
In the White Paper last year we described the AFVG as operationally and industrially the core of the long-term aircraft programme. To explain why the AFVG was the core of the long-term aircraft programme and what this implies, I must run over some ground already familiar to some hon. Members, ground which was also covered to some extent by the right hon. Member for Mitcham.
First, I should like to define the objectives which any Government should set themselves in framing a military aircraft programme. First, they must provide the Services with the aircraft they need for the tasks the Government may set them, at the time when they are needed and at a price the nation can afford. Secondly, they must phase the programme so that the costs are evenly spread over the years and the flow of design and production work for industry is also evenly spread. Otherwise, uneven bulges will be found in defence expenditure progammes which will compel one to cancel the aircraft or other projects in the programme and face industry with long periods when its resources are idle or under-used and skilled manpower may move into other jobs at home or abroad.
I do not think that any of us today would deny that these should be the objectives of any Government's aircraft programme. By every single one of these tests, the aircraft programme of the Conservative Government which we inherited was a lamentable failure. In October, 1964, the Government found the R.A.F. already dangerously under-equipped for its tasks, with no prospect of obtaining the aircraft it required in time or at a price the country could afford. For tactical strike its Canberras were subsonic and already 13 years old. For fighter/ground attack its Hunters were subsonic and already 10 years old. It was seriously short of transport aircraft. The Hastings and Beverleys were 16 and eight years old respectivey. The maritime reconnaissance Shackletons were 12 years old. We were desperatey short of helicopters for operations then going on in Borneo and South Arabia.
To judge the Tory Government's achievement, let this arsenal be compared with the aircraft already available, not only to Russia and to the United States, but to France. France has the Mirage IV, supersonic, already flying. Compare this arsenal with the arsenal available to Indonesia, Iraq and Egypt—all with supersonic MiG21s. [Interruption.] But the aircraft in our arsenal which might have had to face these aircraft were all subsonic.
I am coming to that later. There were no plans whatever for providing replacement aircraft for these aircraft for many years, and by that time some of the existing aircraft would have been falling apart from old age. That is the literal truth.
All the aircraft we had in our arsenal in 1964 had begun development in the 'forties, under the post-war Labour Government. The history of the military aircraft programme under the Conservatives was one of unrelieved failure. I want to quote the objective report published this month by the Institute of Strategic Studies. It says:
But the present-day lack of British aircraft, and the consequent need to order American ones, was also caused by the frequent changes of procurement policy in the last 10 years, and the continuing attempt to spread resources over too wide a field. All the projects initiated between 1950 and 1955, without exception, became the casualties of changed policy or their own rising costs within too tight a budget, and so were cancelled.
This is an objective account of the first part of the Tory Party's programme.
The fact is that the Conservatives throughout showed a total indifference to cost at the planning stage, which was followed by cancellations before development was completed. That is why they cancelled 30 aero-space projects during the period when they were in office, at a cost of over £200 million.
This afternoon the right hon. Member for Mitcham showed the same total indifference at the planning stage. He said that we should have had two advanced projects on the military side alone, one collaborative project from which nobody was to be allowed to withdraw in any circumstances and one purely independent national project as well. The right hon. Gentleman said—I quote him—"We must have a number of complementary advanced projects". This is what the Conservatives in office tried to do and they found, when they came to it, that they could never afford it. So the aircraft were cancelled, the R.A.F. went without supersonic aircraft, which the Indonesians and the Iraqis already had, and the result was that we faced the sort of difficulty which the Labour Government faced when we came to office in 1964. If the Conservative programme had been continued by the Labour Government, quite apart from the other consequences, there would have been no money whatever in the defence or any other Budget to carry out either the AFVG or an independent national project, and certainly not both.
It was quite clear—I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will accept it, if he recalls what I said—that I made it absolutely clear that I thought we should be involved in one major advanced project on the military side and that, when I spoke about a number of complementary projects, I had already moved on to consider the civil side as well. It is absolutely clear that I was then looking at the aircraft industry as a whole and its programme as a whole. I am sure that a study of HANSARD will show this.
I think that the House will recall that earlier in his speech, when he was discussing the AFVG the right hon. Gentleman said that it was the policy of the Conservative Party that, "We should never rely on a single collaborative project for an advanced military aircraft. We must have an independent project as well". I am quite prepared to leave it to the right hon. Gentleman to look up his own words in HANSARD. I think that the House will admit that I am right.
When I said that I also said that we could not rely entirely on one international collaborative project unless it could be tied up in the same way that the Concord agreement had been tied up.
The right hon. Gentleman is wriggling. That was not what he said. It might have been what he meant.
So far, I have been discussing the Tory programme from 1950 to 1955—a total failure, with every project cancelled. After that chapter of failure due to an overextended programme, the Conservative Government went to the opposite extreme. In his 1957 White Paper, the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) put emphasis on missiles rather than aircraft; but the missiles were a failure, too—Blue Streak cancelled, Blue Water cancelled.
And so the Conservatives swung back again to the first extreme. When they recognised the right hon. Gentleman's error, and began to consider the needs of the Royal Air Force for manned aircraft again, they repeated all the errors of 1950–55. With two honourable exceptions, the Lightning interceptor and the Buccaneer, all the major aircraft which they decided to develop were either too expensive or too late, or both.
The P1154 was launched as a common aircraft for the Navy and the Royal Air Force. Six months later the Conservatives opposite decided that it was no good for the Navy, so they bought American Phantoms instead. The R.A.F. version, however, could not have been ready before 1972. The research and development cost was appallingly high. The same was true for the HS681 transport aircraft. To have continued with those aircraft would have meant running the Hunters until they were 18 years old and the small force of Hastings and Beverleys until they were 24 and 16 years old, respectively. The planned replacement for the Beverleys and Hastings was three times as expensive as the Hercules which we bought and which are already in R.A.F. service in 1967, five years earlier than we would have had the HS681.
Now, let us look at the Canberra replacement, which is more directly relevant to the AFVG. The TSR2 was four years late in its planned delivery date when the Labour Party came to power. Its astronomic cost, with that of the other aircraft which I have mentioned, would have forced any Government into cancelling it. Otherwise, there would have been a colossal bulge in military aircraft expenditure from 1969 to 1972 which would have knocked the defence budget sideways and—this is the important point—would have ruled out any further development work on military aircraft until at least the middle of the 1970s. The industry would have collapsed meanwhile.
The fact is that the Conservative Government had no long-term aircraft programme of any sort, and could not have afforded one anyway. When the Labour Party took over, it inherited an aircraft programme which was a catastrophic failure by any test and we had to set about constructing a new programme which would make some military, industrial and economic sense.
We have debated this many times in the House. One point, which I will make later, is that some of t tie internal equipment of the TSR2 will be made use of in other British aircraft which will be flying with the Royal Air Force.
I want to discuss the alternatives. I will cover all the points which hon. Members opposite are so anxious to bring out. We faced the problem of reconstructing an aircraft programme from scratch. The problem fell into three phases: short-term, medium-term and long-term. A word first on the short-term programme. First, we had to cancel all the three major aircraft which were under development and fill the gap with British aircraft where possible, buying the minimum number of American aircraft to complete the need.
We therefore decided to develop the P1127 and to buy Phantoms instead of continuing with the P1154. We decided o buy the Hercules instead of the HS681. We developed the maritime Comet to replace the Shackleton. We decided to switch the Vulcans to a tactical strike reconnaissance rôle along with 50 F111s to supplement them in the conventional strike rôle until the middle 1970s. Even on the maximum purchase which we envisaged 18 months ago, the savings of this programme would have been £1,200 million over the 10 years to 1975. In fact, the savings are likely to be greater because of the reduction in tasks, which will make it possible to restrict the purchase of foreign aircraft. I will give more details of this when the Defence White Paper is published.
The important point for the Royal Air Force is that all these aircraft to which I have referred, British and foreign, will be in service with the Royal Air Force before 1970. The short-term operational problem was, therefore, solved. The Opposition argued at the time that the industrial problem would thereby be made insoluble and that there would be catastrophic consequences for the aircraft industry. We had debate after debate in 1964, 1965 and 1966 in which the Opposition hammered away at that theme. It was absolutely untrue.
Let us look at the situation in 1966, the year after all those cancellations had taken place. The output of our industry was an all-time record and its exports were twice those of the last year of Conservative rule. The size of the industry has hardly changed and there is no sign of any decrease yet. [Interruption.] The Conservative Party was as consistently wrong in its predictions in opposition as it was in its planning when in office.
Of the £200 million of exports in which the right hon. Gentleman now takes pride on behalf of the country, can he tell us of one project which was not developed under the Conservative Government?
No, I certainly cannot. All I am saying is that hon. Members opposite said that the industry would collapse immediately those projects were cancelled. They were telling a blatant untruth, and they should have known it at the time.
I come now to the medium-term programme. Industrially and operationally, the short-term programme was solved by the measures which we took during the first year we were in office, but there were still some gaps in the medium-term programme of the Royal Air Force in the first half of the 1970s. The Government decided that they must find a way of breaking the old pattern, sanctified by 13 years of Conservative rule, in which excessive research and development expenditure was followed by cancellation before production. We decided that the only answer was to co-operate with others, to share research and development and to increase the production run. Of course, we looked to Europe, and primarily to France, for collaborative projects.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham is quite right: the Conservatives started that, but far too late. They reached agreement on the first collaborative project with France—a missile, Martel—only a few weeks before they left office We developed an extensive additional collaborative programme for the Jaguar strike trainer and a family of three helicopters. This programme is going well, together with the other projects which we have approved. It will meet the needs of the R.A.F. and will provide plenty of production work for industry up to the middle 1970s. The House may like to know that there are very good prospects of selling the Jaguar to other countries. We expect a very big production run for the Jaguar.
I now pass to the long-term programme. With the short-term and medium-term programmes now on a sound basis, we had to look at the long-term programme. The aircraft which we had already planned and which I have mentioned would meet the major needs of the Royal Air Force as we foresaw them until the 1980s in every way except one. We had covered the requirement for transport, ground attack, trainer, maritime-reconnaissance and helicopters. The one exception was that part of the conventional strike reconaissance rôle which would be carried out by Vulcans as a supplement to the F 111 until the middle 1970s. The Vulcans, however, were to leave service in the middle 1970s. The question was what we were to do about that one element which was still a gap in our long-term programme.
Of course, there was also the industrial problem. There was no new advanced military design work for industry in prospect from the beginning of the 1970s, nor would there have been under the Conservative programme. From the industrial point of view, if it was desired to keep the capability for developing advanced combat aircraft we must give work to design teams in the future.
Therefore, we decided to meet both the operational and the industrial requirement together by seeking to develop a swing-wing aircraft with France. This was a project first envisaged by the Conservative Government before the General Election in 1964, but the Conservatives never managed to do anything about it. The reason was that they were not prepared to adapt their operational requirements to those of the potential co-operator. We were. That is why we were able to reach agreement in May, 1965.
When the project started, as I have pointed out, it was welcomed by the Conservative Opposition in glowing terms. Indeed, they attempted to take credit for this themselves. But the essence of a long-term programme is that it cannot be as firm as a short-term programme. A long-term project is always liable to modification, if its cost rises intolerably, or the programme slips in time, or a change develops in the operational requirement.
The latter problem is one of the most difficult to cope with. It takes up to 10 years to bring into service a major new advanced aircraft. But operational requirements, depending as they do not only one's own view of one's likely military role—about which the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of the intervention of a Liberal hon. Member, said nothing in his speech—but also on predictions about the identity and capability of potential enemies, are bound to be a matter of difficult and uncertain judgment.
The Conservative Opposition are the last to be able to deny this. They themselves cancelled over 30 aerospace programmes during the 13 years they were in office, at cost of over £200 million. Hon. Members may like to look up the list which appears in HANSARD, c. 206 of 14th April, 1965.
The Minister has made much of cancellations, but would he not agree that any military Power has to make a percentage of cancellations in its aircraft programme, and that the percentage of cancellations made by the Conservative Government was far smaller than those in Soviet Russia or the United States?
I accept that cancellations are inevitable and often desirable. That is why I reject totally the idea that we should engage in a project from which we have not the right to withdraw, as they did with the Concord and we were determined not to do with the AFVG.
Cancellation is not necessarily wrong. The right to cancel—with appropriate penalties depending on the stage at which cancellation takes place—is essential for any Government with the slightest interest in the needs of the taxpayer or, indeed, of the Services. The right of withdrawal should be part of any long-term agreement, otherwise both parties may be condemned to waste colossal sums of money on projects which turn out to be unnecessary or intolerably expensive. For this reason, as I told the House on 17th May, 1965, when I announced the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding, we included a cancellation clause.
I repeatedly stressed the importance of the cancellation clause at every stage. In January of this year, and again when I met M. Messmer later this year, we decided to put off the period until January, 1969, from this year, because we both felt—I believe rightly—that it is not right to make people pay penalties for a cancellation until a lot of money has been committed. We do not think it right, and we would not think it right to require the French to do so.
With respect, it is ludicrous to suggest that I pretended that this project had a certainty which did not exist. On the contrary, I pointed out repeatedly against protests, from the Opposition that both Britain and France had the right, and must have the right, to withdraw from the project if it no longer made sense for them. The fact is that any long-term project is bound to be uncertain, and the best way to illustrate why this is so is to tell the story of the AFVG in some detail.
M. Messmer, the French Minister for he Armed Forces, the then Minister of Aviation, and I signed the original Memorandum of Understanding to study a variable geometry combat aircraft together on 17th May, 1965, just over two years ago. At this time, the French were Interested only in the strike rôle, and we envisaged the aircraft as a replacement for the Lightnings as an interceptor. The French wanted the aircraft in 1974, we in 1977.
A year later when we met on 6th May, 1966, the British Government had decided to take an option on the minimum number of F111s required to replace the Canberra against more sophisticated targets and to shift the Vulcans into the tactical/strike/reconnaissance rôle against the less well defended targets up to 1975. This gave us both the money and the operational opportunity which enabled us to develop the variable geometry aircraft as the French originally wished, for strike—to replace the Vulcans and later the Buccaneers in the latter 'seventies.
Meanwhile, however, the French had begun to put greater emphasis than before on the aircraft's interceptor performance. An operational requirement for the new aircraft in this mixture of rôles had been already agreed by the military staffs of the two countries.
Hon. Gentlemen who want to pursue collaboration, as I hope most hon. Members do, must recognise the nature of the problems which arise—[Interruption.] I shall be very glad to answer any hon. Member who wishes to criticise me, and I hope that hon. Members will intervene if they think that at any stage I have handled this matter wrongly—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) likes to stop muttering in his beard and get up on any point, I will gladly give way to him.
If the Minister is so confident about the way in which he has handled this, and that the French were entirely within their rights in acting as they did and cancelling it, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether there is anyone in the tragic situation into which he has led us who is in any way to blame?
My views on the problem will become clear as I proceed in my narrative.
The French Government, in 1966, felt that the operational requirement as agreed by the military staffs might turn out to be too expensive, so we instructed our military and civilian staffs together to examine possible variants of the aircraft on a cost efficiency basis to see whether we could reasonably expect to hold its cost below £1½ million a copy. During the following 12 months, I had five separate meetings with M. Messmer—and there was a very large number of meetings between officials during that period—against a background of constantly shifting views in the French Government about the budgetary aspects Of the problem, and some last-minute changes of view among the French Air Staff on its military aspects.
In November last year, we agreed that the most cost/efficient aircraft combining the best mixture of performance characteristics at a reasonable cost would be the so-called datum aircraft, at an estimated cost of £215 million for research and development, split equally between the two countries, and from £1·5 million to £1·6 million a copy for production.
I do not deny that neither I nor M. Messmer could at this stage put our hands on our hearts and guarantee that these estimates would not be exceeded in the event. But the improvement in realism achieved in estimating since the bad old days of the S.B.A.C. meeting can be judged by the fact that, at a similar stage of the TSR2 project, which was more complex, more novel, and very much more heavy and expensive than the AFVG, the Conservative Government estimated its development costs at about £90 million—only a third of what they finally turned out to be.
Nevertheless, the French Government, last autumn, were uncertain whether they would be able to accommodate the project as then programmed in the early years, because of a bulge in their defence budget at that particular time. For this reason, we offered to take all the deliveries of the aircraft in the first years of production, while the French would start their deliveries in 1975. In December last year, the French Government finally decided to go ahead with the variable geometry project and so informed us by letter.
On 16th January this year, I met M. Messmer again and we agreed on a detailed programme of work for the following 12 months, including final agreement on specification by April in the light of the requirements of potential customers elsewhere in Europe. Shortly after this, a General Election was held in France, and M. Messmer was not reappointed as Minister of Defence until the beginning of April.
Meanwhile, the French Air Staff had had second thoughts about the specification and wanted to improve the aircraft's performance, particularly in the strike rôle and in one aspect of interception. The improvements they sought meant a substantial increase in the aircraft's weight and cost—the weight increase ruling it out as a replacement for the American Crusader on the French Navy's carriers. I met M. Messmer again in April, and we agreed to have another look at the operational requirement and cost.
On 8th May we met again. This time we reached complete agreement on specification, cost, and industrial arrangements, which were British led in design of the airframe, and French led on the engine. The agreed specification meant accepting a 10 per cent. increase in weight, and the aircraft would still have been too heavy for the French carriers. The cost estimates, of course, increased, too. The research and development was now fixed at £240 million, split equally between the two countries, and the aircraft cost at £1·7 million a production copy.
I need not tell the House, particularly some of my hon. Friends, how reluctant I was to accept cost increases of this order, although I will not deny that there was some military and technical advantages in the improved specification. I agreed with M. Messmer that so far as Britain was concerned the increase in research, development, and production costs would have to be covered by a reduction in the total number of aircraft ordered by Britain, so the overall programme cost to Britain remained the same.
The agreement between M. Messmer and myself was, of course, ad referendum to our respective Governments. The British Government approved the new package the following week. Five weeks later the French Government considered it. They fully endorsed the new specification, cost estimates, and industrial arrangements, but, meanwhile, their budgetary situation had changed very substantially for the worse. As hon. Members may have seen in today's newspapers, the French Government have found it necessary to make substantial cuts in planned Government expenditure, both civil and military, over the next few years, and the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft was one of the casualties.
The same evening as the French Government reached this decision on 16th June, I received warning through the French Embassy in London that severe budgetary problems had arisen, and that I would hear more directly from M. Messmer later exactly what they were. As the House knows, I arranged to meet him in London on 29th June, following immediately after his return from a visit to Madagascar. I made a last effort to see whether there was any way in which the British Government might help to meet the French budgetary difficulties. It proved in vain. The two Governments published a joint communiqué on 5th July, which I reported to the House that afternoon.
I know that this is a complicated story, and I would like to make some comments on it. In the first place, M. Messmer behaved throughout with the greatest frankness, keeping me fully informed at all times of the nature of the difficulties that he faced in France. I do not believe that it is possible to claim that the British Government could have done anything else at any stage to prevent the final French decision—the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) is sitting there grinning. If he has any comment to make, I shall be glad to hear it.
As I was saying, I do not believe that it is possible to claim that the British Government could have done anything else at any stage to prevent the final French decision, although, as I have explained, a readiness on our side to make concessions did enable us to surmount the major obstacles which presented themselves last autumn when the financial difficulties facing France concerned the French defence budget alone, and not French Government expenditure as a whole.
The French Government have taken full responsibility for ending this collaborative project, and have made it publicly clear that their decision to withdraw from the project was caused by budgetary problems alone. Total agreement on the joint specification had been reached, not only between M. Messmer and myself on 8th May, but also had been endorsed by the very meeting of the French Government who, for budgetary reasons, decided that they were compelled to withdraw from the project.
There is one further point on which would like to make the position clear. There has been a good deal of talk in London and Paris, in the Press and elsewhere, that the French Government have cancelled the joint project so as to pro- ceed with a national variable geometry aircraft based on the Dassault Mirage 3G. I am authorised to say that there is no truth whatever in this suggestion. M. Messmer made it clear to me on many occasions in the last 12 months, and repeated in the most formal terms at our last meeting in London on 29th June, that the French Government have no intention of developing the experimental 3G aircraft into an operational combat plane, and I shall explain why.
At the moment, it is a single-engined flying test-bed, with no operational capability whatever. To turn it into a satisfactory operational aircraft which the French Air Force would accept, would involve further heavy development expenditure of the same order as that which France would have incurred as her share in developing the Anglo-French VG. For the French Government to undertake such expenditure in the face of their withdrawal from the VG project for budgetary reasons would be totally irrational, as well as quite inconsistent with their declared position. I have, in any case, received the most binding undertaking that the French Government have no intention of doing this.
No, and I have not sought that.
I do not disguise that the French Government's decision has come as a serious disappointment. Of course it has, and, as the right hon. Member for Mitcham said, it faces us with some major problems which we shall need some months to resolve. On the other hand, the French Government have stated their firm intention to proceed with the other joint military projects—Martel, Jaguar, and the three helicopters—and that they are prepared to consider collaboration with Britain on an airbus. Indeed, we agreed a supplemental memorandum on the Jaguar at the same meeting as M. Messmer told me of his Government's withdrawal from the VG.
This is the best indication that the setback on the AFVG has no political implications, as the right hon. Member for Mitcham suggested it had. It may, indeed, prove to be the case that the French withdrawal from the VG project—
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made that point. In any country major aircraft companies are deeply concerned to maximise their own possibilities of making a profit, and there is no doubt, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that some of the French companies in the aircraft field were not keen on the VG going ahead. So, I daresay, were some in Britain, but, as I hope I have made clear to the House, the anxieties of certain interests in France about the VG had nothing to do with the decision which the French Government finally took.
It may prove to be the case that the French withdrawal from the VG project will make co-operation on the airbus very much easier. This is the point made in the Liberal Party Amendment, with which I have a great deal of sympathy, but, certainly, the basic principle of all parties in the House, that we should seek to build the future of our aircraft industry on collaboration with other countries, remains as sound as ever.
Meanwhile, we in Britain face two questions which must be presenting themselves to the French Government, too, in an even more formidable way than they are presenting themselves to us. First, what is the nature and size of the gap in our military capability in the latter 'seventies now that the Anglo-French VG aircraft can no longer be counted on to replace our Vulcans in the tactical/strike and reconnaissance rôle? This is a strategic and planning problem of primary concern to me as Secretary of State for Defence.
Secondly, can we maintain the skills in airframe design which we now possess, now that we have lost the AFVG advanced combat aircraft project which was to keep the design team in this field going? This is the industrial, and indeed the technological, problem which is primarily the concern of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology.
So long as France was collaborating in the AFVG project we could plan on solving both the industrial and the operational problems at the same time. I hope that we can still find a way of doing this, but the French withdrawal from the AFVG project, and the two years spent in the attempt to keep collaboration going with France, makes it necessary for us to look at all aspects of the problem with a fresh eye.
If we are to remain free to solve the operational and industrial problems together in a new project, we must keep our designers working while we are taking our decisions. This is why we have provided sufficient funds for the B.A.C. design team at Warton to carry out a project study on a VG aircraft to a modified specification.
The B.A.C. design team at Warton was fully engaged at that time in working—[Interruption.] I wish that the hon. Member would listen. The B.A.C. design team at Warton was the design team involved in the AFVG project, and was fully engaged on it. It had done a good deal of preliminary work on this aircraft, on a modified specification, but it had not the time, the money or the inclination, as that stage, to do a project study on such an aircraft. Now the project study on such an aircraft is being carried out. If the hon. Member for Woking does not know what a project study is and how it differs from other things, perhaps he will consult his hon. Friends.
What I pointed out in my speech was that the right hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend, the then Minister of Aviation, when questioned about his contingency plans, said that they were well advanced and that the Government would hope to make an announcement almost immediately—the word "immediately" should be noted.
If the hon. Member will be patient—[HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Member."] If the right hon. Member will be patient and listen to what I am about to say he will see that I am answering his question
The design team was engaged on a project study at Warton. Meanwhile, the Government were subjecting the operational requirements to the most stringent re-examination in the light of the further evolution of our defence policy both inside and outside Europe, on which Her Majesty's Government will be publishing a White Paper next week. If this re-examination establishes the need for more strike-reconnaissance aircraft, after 1975 we would certainly wish to meet it in collaboration with other countries. The prospects of collaboration will depend mainly on how we and our N.A.T.O. allies see our needs in Europe developing in the later 1970s.
Three countries at least—Holland, Italy and Germany—are beginning to consider the nature of their needs when the American F104 is no longer operational. If, by collaborating with them on an aircraft for the European theatre, we can economically meet our own military requirement and provide advance design work for our industry, this will be the best of all possible worlds. We are, therefore, arranging urgent discussions with them—discussions of a nature which we were not free to hold.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. The point I want to make is still valid and has not yet been answered. We were assured by two members of the Cabinet that if the AFVG project was cancelled the Ministers concerned would almost immediately be able to tell the House exactly what the contingency replacement would be.
I am explaining that we got on immediately with doing this. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that we could come to the House with a fully specified aircraft, and a list of countries willing to co-operate on it, he must be barmy.
It is a hot afternoon, and the hon. Member is rather overwrought, so I will let that pass.
The discussions that we are having with the potential partners in the new project are discussions of a nature which we were not free to hold while the AFVG project was still alive. This is such an obvious point that I am staggered that the hon. Member cannot take it in.
Another possibility would be to co-operate with the United States and European countries together—perhaps on a swing-wing version of the Phantom—to which some attention has been given in the Press—or some other such project, like the German-American AVS.
If the whole of this examination fails to reveal any reasonable prospect of our producing an aircraft to meet our needs ourselves, either alone or in collaboration with others, there is little doubt that we could meet them economically by buying abroad. But this would have far-reaching implications for our aircraft industry and for other industries as well.
The fact is—and I readily confess this—that none of the alternatives to the AFVG which we can now foresee is without obvious difficulties. That is why the Government worked so hard to make the AFVG a success. If any hon. Member has a suggestion which indicates that we could have worked harder at it I should be interested to hear it.
What I say about that to the hon. Member is that the remarks I uttered then I withdrew in the House, whereas the remarks uttered by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home),' which were of a very much more serious nature, reflecting upon the honour and integrity of the French President, have never, to my knowledge, been withdrawn.
I wish that the Opposition had chosen to face the full implications of the French withdrawal from this project with a full sense of the economic cost of an independent production for a purely national need. I thought that the hon. Member for Mitcham—[HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Member."] I give the right hon. Member full credit for this. He made some valuable comments on this matter in his speech. But the Opposition as a whole have put down a Motion which is as ill-founded as it is ill-drafted—of staggering effrontery in the light of their own record, and of stupendous irrelevance alike to industry and the nation's military needs.
I could understand the Opposition's Motion if they had themselves opposed this project as the basis of our long-term programme, but they did not. On the contrary, they took credit for it themselves when it was first agreed in 1965—incidentally, they told us then what to do; they said we should do this, and they repeated their support in 1966. The hon. Member for Mitcham for example—[HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Member."]—said in the House on 8th March last year:
As for the major new projects for the future, the industry now has its joint share with France in the Jaguar and the VG projects. These are most welcome and valuable, and I want to make it clear that my hon. Friends and I agree about that"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1940.]
The General Election manifesto of the Tory Party last year said:
Stimulate the new technological industries at which Britain excels. Provide the aerospace industry with a stable long-term programme based on European co-operation.
Speaking for the Opposition in another place, the noble Lord, Earl Jellicoe, took the opportunity, on 2nd November last year, when the project was at risk to emphasise
how strongly we on these benches support this project. It was initiated under the Conservative Administration".
—this was not true—
and is one to which we … attach the very greatest importance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 2nd November, 1966; Vol. 277, c. 576.]
This, I think, was true.
The only spokesman of the Party opposite not clearly on record in support of the project is the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who, on this as on every other important issue, confined himself to frivolous and destructive criticism of how the Government were conducting their policy, while wrapping his view of whether the policy itself was right in sibylline ambiguity. He played the same game on Aden, on the TSR2 cancellation, on the carrier programme, and on policy outside Europe.
I have no doubt that when the right hon. Member gets up tonight he will treat us to his usual performance—20 minutes of forensic textual criticism in which pedantry and perversity are mingled in equal parts, followed by 10 minutes of moralising humbug. I look forward, as I am sure hon. Members on both sides do, to watching him gumshoeing around like an academic Sherlock Holmes, complete with deerstalker, pouncing on an unoffending word or sentence, dragging it out of context and twisting its obvious meaning till it cries with pain and bears false witness of some shocking conspiracy to mislead the House or destroy the nation.
It is always well enough done—arguments painstakingly constructed on assumptions invariably false, elaborately concocted phrases that reek of the lamp, superb melodrama, and about as relevant to the real problems that the House should be debating as a commentary on the Philoctetes of Sophocles.
I ask hon. Members opposite—especially those who are now sitting on the Front Bench, and there are not very many of them: when will the Conservative Party realise that the country is sick and tired of seeing it play verbal party politics with the military issue at the very heart of the nation's security and industrial well-being? When will it start talking about the real, physical problems instead of juggling with words? Perhaps another trouncing in the Division Lobbies tonight will finally drive the lesson home. I ask the House to reject the Motion.
We have never been treated to such an extraordinary speech. The irresponsibility of the Secretary of State's approach takes spine swallowing. I am amazed that he should use words like "serious disappointment" about the bottom being kicked out of his whole programe. After all the assurances from the Government Front Bench that contingency planning was going forward, and would be announced almost immediately if the aircraft were cancelled, he now says that it involves problems which will take "some time to resolve".
What was the contingency planning? Surely the one thing which he should have been examining is the requirements of the Royal Air Force, but the right hon. Gentleman now says that if this new review—part of the continuing chaos of his continuing defence review—shows a need for more strike aircraft in the mid-70s, then, of course, the Government will look at collaboration.
The country must know whether he will now trim Air Force requirement to suit what he thinks he should spend rather than the foreign policies which the Government should carry out, and what equipment the Air Force would then require. The right hon. Gentleman is back to square one. The moment he is in difficulty, he decides to reduce expenditure, which means cutting down requirements. Within the coming week, I believe that we should be told of further cuts in our forces, which will be designed not to fit in with our foreign policy but to enable the right hon. Gentleman to make it look as though he has a viable defence policy.
The Secretary of State has stumbled from one misjudgment to another in the last two and a half years and it is difficult for those of us who have witnessed it to understand how he dare remain in office. We have seen constant examples of his doing his best to conceal information from the House instead of revealing it. Time and again, in answer to Questions, whether on the cost of the F111 or anything else, he has given figures which cannot be reconciled or interpreted even by the experts. Worst of all, the right hon. Gentleman has taken the Air Force for a ride in the most callous way.
The R.A.F. thought that it would get 110 TSR2s, but that was cancelled, not in a Defence Review or a White Paper, but in a Budget speech. With smooth words, much more syrupy than he dare use in this House, the right hon. Gentleman talked the Air Force into accepting 110 F111As in place of the TSR2s. The Air Force no doubt reckoned that if the F111 turned out all right—it has not done so yet and this is his next problem—they would have one for one TSR2. The time for protest went by and the Minister kept all quiet.
However, shortly afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman decided that the Air Force would not have 110 F111s, but 50, and an undisclosed number of AFVGs, which we assumed to be between 120 and 150 to make up the bomb-carrying capacity. Now, the Air Force, having been persuaded to accept this and believing in the right hon. Gentleman's integrity and intention to look after the force properly, finds that the core, about which the right hon. Gentleman said very little, has been taken away from the Air Force and from the aircraft industry—
If the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft merely to cut it out, we should have a much better statement from him. This music hall turn is no substitute for the statesmanship which we expect of a Secretary of State for Defence. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will wish to pursue the right hon. Gentleman's definition of a core.
What new arrangements has the right hon. Gentleman begun to pursue? He has not been pursuing them during the months in which everyone else foresaw this project's collapse. What aircraft will we have and what tasks does he expect them to perform? He has not told us any of that, although he should have worked out that, at least. Surely he has not been merely waiting for the core to be cut out before discussing with the R.A.F. the replacement and its tasks. Are we to have merely a further downgrading of requirements so that he can say that he has saved a little money and supplied many fewer aircraft, thus pleasing his Left-wing, who are the only people to get any pleasure out of this abysmal affair? Where it will all end, I do not know.
One thing, however, is clear. The right hon. Gentleman has entirely failed to fulfil his prime responsibility as Secretary of State for the country's defence and security, and to ensure that the Armed Forces of the Crown have the weapons and equipment to carry out that defence. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and other members of the Cabinet must count the cost, but he should fight to see that the Services are properly equipped and not to cut down the cost.
The right hon. Gentleman began in office with an absolutely fallacious move—the arbitrary reduction in the amount of defence expenditure, regardless of the forces' requirements. He made it clear at the outset that he was not doing the job which the Secretary of State should do, seeing that the country is defended and that the Services have the weapons and equipment to do it, and resigning, if necessary, if his Cabinet would not allow them to be so equipped. Instead, he is the axe wielder, saving money and satisfying the political aspirations in the country of his Left-wingers; calling for a reduction in expenditure.
The right hon. Gentleman inherited a programme which he tried to pretend today in a very weak performance was so bad, but which would have resulted in the most modern and effective Air Force in the world. He destroyed three major projects and tries to pretend that it was a great deed to help the country, but it was a serious one and we shall be counting the cost for many years. Now he whines, like a schoolchild, when this project falls through, "Please miss, it wasn't my fault: somebody else is to blame", rather like the Prime Minister saying that whatever goes wrong the Government will never be to blame—
The hon. Member will no doubt make a speech, and I dare say that he will do exactly what the Secretary of State has done, which is to run through a long and rather twisted history of past events instead of facing up to the facts. But it is the right hon. Gentleman's fault. It is he who is responsible for seeing that we have the necessary aircraft.
May I draw attention to a statement made by the Secretary of State for Defence in the Defence Review debate of 22nd February, 1966. Referring to his hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), the Minister of Defence said:
Nobody could have fought harder than my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) to see that the Royal Navy got more equipment to use east of Suez, even though this meant that the defence budget should rise above the ceiling of £2,000 million; and I regret that my hon. Friend should have found it necessary to resign because the Chiefs of Staff, I myself, and the Government were unable to accept his advice. I think that many of us in the House recognise integrity when we see it and that my hon. Friend has shown great courage in taking the step he has."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 242.]
The right hon. Gentleman should show the same integrity and courage in seeing that the Services for which he is responsible are properly equipped to carry out their task. If he has no assurances as to the proper equipment of the Services, let him follow the example of his hon. Friend and let us say of him, too, that we recognise integrity and courage when we see it.
I wish to use my time to suggest a number of specific actions which perhaps the Government should consider taking between now and October. I understand, of course, that discussions in detail on whether we should have a VG aircraft and do it with European countries other than France, could not take place while the AFVG with the French was still alive. Of course, the Secretary of State is quite right to say that. But may I start by asking whether we should not eradicate from our thoughts the idea of going ahead and co-operating with other European countries on a VG aircraft at this stage. Both the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence have talked in terms of pursuing cooperative ventures—the right hon. Member for Mitcham explicitly.
First, take the position of the Germans. The Germans say that they have no money. Anyhow, they seem to be cutting back their Services by about 60,000 men. In addition, is it conceivable—I put this as a question to my right hon. Friend—that the Germans would surrender the intimate relationship which exists between E.W.R. and Fairchild-Hiller and their joint funding operation with Boeing, and a number of other intimate German connections with American industry? Would they surrender all these to the supposed advantages of an Anglo-German variable geometry aircraft?
My right hon. Friend went on to talk about possible co-operation with the Italians. If the Italians were not interested before, have they not even less reason to be interested now, in the light of the French withdrawal? In any event, supposing we were to co-operate with the Italians, would not the split interest factor still remain, since the Italians might want an interceptor but no more than the French would the Italians be interested in trying to satisfy the British strike requirements? There is still in this matter the difficulty of a split interest perhaps leading to specifications which are aerodynamically incompatible. Can one talk about the Italian aviation industry in terms of being a serious partner?
My right hon. Friend went on to talk in terms of possible co-operation with the Dutch. But surely the recent heated debate in the Dutch Parliament and the subsequent decision to buy the F.5 from Canadair in co-operation with native-Dutch Fokker rules out potential co-operation between Britain and Holland. I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend is familiar with the arguments which have been going on in Holland whether Holland ought to have this kind of air- craft. Surely, in the light of these debates and the firm decisions to go to Canadair and to introduce Fokker avionics, it is unrealistic to talk about possible co-operation with Holland.
Collaboration on the swing-wing with other countries in Europe is not now a practical reality. Let us forget it. It is not on. It is something of the past.
My right hon. Friend then talked in terms of co-operation between Europe and the United States and Britain together, a joint venture. It seems to me that there are great difficulties in that. It was my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Aviation, now Home Secretary, who outlined extremely powerfully the great difficulties of Britain co-operating with an American firm since, by reasons of scale and size, we should inevitably become a kind of junior partner. When we talk in terms of co-operation between Europe and Britain and the United States on this type of aircraft, I very much doubt whether we are talking about a practical proposition at all. I have grave doubts on the point.
Perhaps I may ask a question in this connection. It is fairly widely known that MacDonnell are putting forward a private venture. Does this interest my right hon. Friends and, if so, how do they feel about a venture by a great and rich American aircraft company which, nevertheless, as far as I know, has no backing of Pentagon finance? I think that that is a pretty risky operation. Secondly, I would argue that it is worth while and rewarding to set up in the Ministry of Defence a post-mortem study group to scrutinise the real reasons for the French action. Neither my right hon. Friend nor M. Messmer would, I think, seriously ask us completely to swallow the statement that they have been forced to take this step solely—yes, solely—because of the pressure on their budget for a number of years ahead.
I am not saying that my right hon. Friend or M. Messmer is telling a lie. I do not think that that is so. I am arguing that this is simply not the whole story. At least, I very much doubt whether it is the whole story. We must remember that this was, we were told, the "most carefully costed project of modern times." The French economic outlook has not been transformed overnight quite to this extent.
Doubtless, subsidiary and domestic factors played a part in the French decision. Of course, Marcel Bloch Dassault has great influence in the Gaullist Party. Of course, the quid pro quo for Dassault taking over the struggling Breguet organisation was permission to go into the serial production of the F.1 interceptor. That is something about which we ought to hear more. Of course, the French Government for political reasons had to save Breguet and make themselves even more beholden to Dassault. I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the point that on television the other night an informed French commentator said openly that one of the difficulties of the aeroplane was that "the duties were very different". This is a point which many of us have suspected for some time—that the requirements aerodynamically are incompatible.
Having said this, I believe that the central point is rather different and from the French point of view sensible and rational—namely, the F.1 is a light, cheap interceptor. The French, having looked at the American experience in Vietnam and, more recently, having taken note of the Israeli military success, and the reasons behind it, have perceived that for them, the future lies in a sound, cheap aircraft rather than a super-sophisticated expensive flying machine.
Perhaps the real reason for the French action in opting out of the AFVG lies more in there having been a reassessment of the requirement in Paris and at the Elysée, rather than in purely budgetary reasons. I suspect that in the last year or so, and particularly during recent weeks, thinking in Paris has changed about the requirement. The French have tumbled to the fact that it is rather silly to give way to an urge towards complexity and expense in an area where it is not needed, at least by Powers such as Britain and France. I am not saying that America and the Soviet Union from their point of view should not develop swing-wing military aircraft. My argument is that the French have perceived that for Powers such as ourselves the swing-wing aircraft is not a requirement; and this would appear to explain many of the actions the French have taken.
I have listened with interest to the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the situation. Should we not also take into account the fact that the French air staff, and not the British, suggested improvements to the AFVG which resulted in an increase in RD costs from £215 million to £240 million? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that some of the promises made by the French prior to the elections must have had some effect on including this rather expensive project in France's long-term budget?
Having found it difficult to get exact information, I find it difficult to answer the first part of that question. But I suspect that, as in Britain, there are at least two views in Paris. Certainly, the French air staff may have taken one view, but I think that other powerful aspects of the French Government machine took another. The same argument can legitimately be applied to London. I am not criticising the French Government machine.
I, too, have been listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the situation, and particularly to his references to aerodynamic incompatability. Would he agree that the French decision was strongly influenced by the fact that the question of the aerodynamic incompatibility of the two types of F111A had come to the forefront in the United States in the last six months?
Having found it difficult to visit Fort Worth, I cannot say. Perhaps that is a legitimate question for the Government. The hon. Gentleman cannot expect me to answer it.
While my right hon. Friend was speaking I asked whether the assurances which he had received about the Mirage 3G also applied to the F1, and he replied, "No, nor did I ask for such assurances". I suspect that while my right hon. Friend's answer was absolutely true in relation to the 3G, some of the same arguments which have been adduced about the F1 are valid.
Before proceeding to ask a number of questions about the nature of the British requirement, we should pause to look at an alternative explanation of events which could be relevant to teaching us something about future technical co-operation. May it not be near the truth to say that the French, rather than withdrawing from the AFVG project, were never really in it in the first place? Indeed, on 14th March last in the House I expressed the gravest doubts about French intentions. What action did the Government take to check those doubts? Did they, for example, go to the trouble of finding out what the French Ministry of Finance was thinking? Whatever M. Messmer may have said, is there any evidence to show that M. Debre had at any time consented to this project?
My right hon. Friend said that M. Messmer had reported to him, with perfect frankness, and had kept him informed. Should not our large Embassy in Paris have gone to some trouble to scrutinise the French internal attitude towards the AFVG? Anybody who asked questions, and who was curious over this matter, would have had little difficulty in finding out that there were formidable reservations, as far back as February and March, about proceeding with the project.
Have the Government learnt anything from these events about the need to make themselves far better informed about the internal situation in any country with which we are to have a civil or military technological partnership in future? This question of better information about our partners' intentions is relevant and it is not a matter of discourtesy, let alone spying. It is especially relevant since my right hon. Friend referred in Wednesday's Statement to possible alternative ways of replacing the V-bombers in the conventional rôle in the mid-'seventies and possible collaboration with other countries. This matter should be explained more fully.
There should be a study of the technique of international co-operation on advance projects. The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) has written and spoken on this subject and many hon. Members are asking for a serious study to be made by the Ministry of Defence or through some appropriate body into the technique of international co-operation on advanced projects.
To add to the list of possible explanations for the French action, is my hon. Friend aware that earlier this year the French were set back by the decision of the German Government to considerably cut back on their order for Transal transport aircraft and that this added to the difficulties? Perhaps the French Government did not know in advance that this might happen.
I return to the question of requirement. I understand very well that predicting 10 years ahead in a fast-changing world is hazardous and that it is easy to make glib attacks on my right hon. Friend. I am not attacking my right hon. Friend. What I believe is that the Defence Review must contain a proper analysis of our likely tasks in the 'seventies. If our commitment is to be west of Cyprus or north of Dover, we must ask ourselves, "Do we need VG aircraft at all?" In recent months I have never had an answer to a simple question which I have repeatedly asked; who is the enemy to be? My right hon. Friend said that this question of future need was a matter of difficult and uncertain judgment. I agree to that point, but precisely who or what are we likely to be defending in 1974? It matters to our discussion today whether it is an obligation to N.A.T.O. or outside N.A.T.O. In my view, we must concentrate on providing the weapons we actually need rather than the smartest, most sophisticated weapons in the shop window.
I suspect that a proper analysis of our 1974 tasks would show that the Royal Air Force would need transport planes, would need some support aircraft and would need helicopters; that any delivery system is unlikely to he by manned aircraft—that strike would he by missile—and that producing a variable geometry aircraft of a strike specification would be like trying to keep the cavalry in being, something for which we have no need.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think some representative of the Defence Department should be present—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] Besides it seems that the requirement of a variable geometry aircraft is that for every hour of flight, they need some 30 hours of servicing. In that case, is it not true that if we are to have variable geometry aircraft at all we ought to have a large number in order to be effective? To requote what has been said before, these are aircraft that do not belong in the arsenals of Powers such as ourselves.
Am I wrong to express grave doubts about the variable geometry aircraft as a future weapon? After all, there are many techniques—with which, I am sure, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Technology is familiar—with which we can counteract terrain-following equipment. The great argument in favour of variable geometry aircraft, that somehow or other low cover gave a certain invulnerability, has been destroyed by modern radar techniques. I therefore hope that there will be a proper analysis again of the future effectiveness of VG.
What does the Secretary of State for Defence mean—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is not here]—by saying that we are authorising British firms to carry out a project study of a V.G. combat aircraft to a "modified specification"? Surely, the files of Whitehall and Weybridge are chock full of definition studies. It was said by the Secretary of State in his speech—and I think that I am quoting accurately—that we have not the time or the money or the inclination to do this kind of project studying, but my understanding is that every practical alternative has been looked into. That was certainly the impression I got from the reply of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology, when, replying to the Adjournment debate on 22nd March, he said:
My hon. Friend asked a number of questions about the estimated cost of developing and producing this aircraft. We and the manufacturers have, of course, already done a number of detailed studies on this aspect of the problem. Indeed, it is fair to say that the cost estimating which has already gone into this project has been more detailed than that devoted to any other British or Anglo-French at this stage of its life.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1967; Vol. 743, c. 1677.]
Are we sure that we want yet more project definition studies? I did not follow technically what the distinction was in my right hon. Friend's speech today on the question of depth of study.
Before October, the Government must make up their mind on the question of buying American aircraft and particularly the possibility, which I think should be ruled out, of buying more F111s. In Washington last month I was fortunate enough to have an interview with Senator McLellan, the Chairman of the Government Operations Committee going into the F111, and subsequently to have a long session with his attorney and the engineers on that committee. I wish that we had this kind of committee here. I had the impression that the 51st British F111, should it come, would cost no less than 16 million dollars. That is more than £5 million. I should like a comment on that figure. At that price for the F111, our economy would be knocked sideways.
I do not deny that proposition. Now, we must ask ourselves what kind of Power we are. It seems to me that the time of choice has come to us. Personally, I welcome this debate, because this is a crucial time of choice. We must cease to be self-deceivers and recognise that the Britain of the 1960s simply is not this kind of a Power—not the kind of Power that requires variable geometry military aircraft.
Having said that, I should like to say that I have genuinely as much concern for the personnel of the Royal Air Force as many hon. Members have. If I were a young warrant officer or squadron leader, aged 28 or 29, I should be very concerned to hear speeches like mine and should be considering my future in relation to legitimate career aspirations. That is why the one thing for which I would press would be a far more active policy in placing personnel from the Royal Air Force on advantageous terms which would look after the interests of the individual Serviceman and his legitimate career expectations.
I should like to see far more being done to put men in suitable jobs in industry and in teaching. With the raising of the school leaving age, I am quite sure that the schemes we should be discussing should include the placing of suitable R.A.F. personnel in teaching in such a way as would be acceptable to the N.U.T. This should be worked out three or four years ahead of the position we will then face. Much can be done, if the Royal Air Force is to be brought down in size, as people like me want, to safeguard the careers of those actually concerned—
Would not my hon. Friend also agree, and recognise that many of us have found, from Question and Answer in the House, that there is a big shortage of commercial airline pilots which has to be filled in the next few years?
I am sure that is true, but I am very concerned about not destroying the career expectations, into whatever field he goes, of the individual Serviceman or officer.
My last subject concerns the industry. We must not miss this moment. We must recognise that at this moment only the United States and the Russians can do this kind of airframe industry. I hope that there will be a study of the United Kingdom future, recognising that we should not in future be a prime contractor in military aerospace. Some of us were very interested to go on a visit to Marconi's, and I have made many visits to electronics firms. I am quite sure that Britain has a record to be proud of when it comes to the manufacture of components and of sub-systems.
For instance, Marconi's can take the greatest credit for their part in the American air space programme, with tracking stations in Ascension Island and Bermuda, and a factory in my constituency has played a major part in the Apollo project. All this is excellent. It is technology on the frontiers of knowledge and it should be encouraged. I am concerned because I think the time has come in advanced military aircraft when we should opt out of the airframe industry. Aero components and engines we do very well—we should give them encouragement and help them.
That brings up the question of the B.A.C. at Warton. It is time to make a clear distinction between production and design. It is argued that if we do not do something about it the designers will go in toto to the United States. This may be so, but I would doubt it.
After all, for the F111 they have all the designers they want and perhaps there is no immediate requirement in the United States to have these particularly important people doing their existing jobs. Nevertheless, if the question is should we spend £400 million or £500 million in keeping an elite design team, however good it is, my answer is, no, there are all sorts of other priorities. Besides, many of the people at Warton could be eased out to industries where they would do a magnificent job in overcoming existing bottlenecks. The design team is important, but I have the feeling that the Government have attached an exaggerated importance to keeping the team together at Warton on its present occupations.
The speech of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology is unpalatable but true. This raises exceedingly important questions. How, for example, do we measure the pay-off of any particular R. and D.? Is it not a fact that R. and D. in the aircraft industry has mounted over the last 10 years to something of the order of 15 per cent. of British skilled manpower and the reward has been 2 per cent. in exports? Certainly this matter of how you do measure pay-off of R. and D. deserves some study because the indirect benefit to the economy of operating in a technically advanced area could be gained at less expense. I would challenge the assumption that the industry needs the technical and scientific stimulant which can be provided only by a major project for an advanced combat aircraft.
I make no apology for quoting directly what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology said when talking to the S.B.A.C.:
There is a certain absurdity in suggesting that something which may not be worth doing for its own sake ought to be done, nevertheless, solely because it will indirectly and indefinably benefit someone else, doing something else, even though he has not asked for the benefit of this fall-out and may not even know how to use it.
These words should be underlined time and again in all discussion inside the Government on this matter. My right hon. Friend has come to the core of the matter that all this argument is about priorities. It should not be a discussion of whether or not we want Warton in a vacuum. I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) that I shall support him up to the hilt in going ahead with the airbus. Perhaps it is possible to exaggerate it, but nevertheless the techniques should be used more and more in the civil transport field with a fall-out, for a change, into military technology. We should try to reverse the process which has been all the other way, from military technology to civil production.
If I am obstinate about finishing what I want to say, that is because I think it important. Having in a sense attacked some of the present concepts of the Government, I ought to say one other thing. Of course I agree with having a technically advanced industry in Britain, but I want the present aircraft industry to do a different kind of job in the 1970s. I want a war, but let it be a war against air and water pollution. This can be done, partly through the manufacturing facilities of the British aircraft industry. Let us have major projects on desalination in the Middle East, such as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. We shall not be able to do the sort of thing the Foreign Secretary, many of my hon. Friends and I want to do in terms of bin technical civil projects and at the same time go ahead with a variable geometry project. Part of the answer to the industrial problems which quite understandably worry my hon. Friends and all of us, including aircraft workers and management, could lie for example in a major project in marine science.
If hon. Members think this is fanciful, why do Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics, North American Aviation and the Bethlehem Steel Corporation sink, not millions but tens of millions—in one case over 100 million—of dollars into the marine sciences? I am sure that those hard-headed men in Marietta, Georgia, and New Jersey do not do this kind of thing without good reason.
So let us think differently and go in for big civil projects and work out how those who would be employed in fruitless, superfluous military projects can under our system transfer their skills to relevant, peaceful and more useful purposes. Of such national goals, the war against pollution, the battle for desalination, and a marine science programme are but examples of ways in which the existing British military aircraft industry could be profitably employed in the 'seventies.
I enjoyed listening to the very constructive first part of the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell). I have a feeling that if he goes on asking such penetrating questions of his Front Bench he will be put on to another Select Committee and will work harder still and have less time for research in different parts of the world.
I disagreed with the hon. Member fundamentally on only two issues. I think he is wrong to believe that missiles will replace manned aircraft. Manned aircraft, in cost-effectiveness and flexibility, and in their ability to undertake reconnaissance and to use man's intelligence to identify targets, can never be replaced for the rest of the century by missiles. I also do not believe that we shall make this country great by concentrating our aircraft industry on engines and components. I think that young men want to make something which they can see. This is what induces them to work hard and devotedly in an industry which they love. Apart from that, I agreed with much of what the hon. Member said.
This is more or less a debate of censure on the Secretary of State for Defence. I was quite amazed when he started by an abuse of almost every aircraft which he had inherited. He was at pains to say that they were subsonic and old. Only by much persuasion were we able to get
out of him that the rest of the world wanted them and spent £217 million last year in buying them. I remember that when the right hon. Member came to rower on 23rd November, 1964, he said:
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouth that he has handed over to me the best weapon any defence Minister in this country has yet had …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd Nov., 1964; Vol. 702, c. 1026.]
This seems rather out of keeping with the abuse he gave to so much that was developed in 13 years of Conservative rule.
I was glad that the Secretary of State avoided the temptation to produce another schedule of costs which are saved during the next 5, 10 and 15 years. We were given this on 1st May. So much has proved to be absolutely wrong that the right hon. Gentleman was wise not to try to bring it up to date this time.
We on these benches have a horrible suspicion that, having had the rug pulled from under him in what he described as the hard core of our defence and industrial programme, the Secretary of State will now find that there is no need at all for the rug. There was a suggestion it his speech that we were to have an announcement soon that he thought that the need might be adjusted. We are promised a White Paper, I think next week. It is all very surprising, in view of the tremendous propaganda exercise which was launched for the Defence White Paper of 1965. We were told that there was to be a Defence Review of such a substance as had never been done before and that matters were to he fundamentally examined on a cost-effectiveness basis—things which had never been done before. Of course they all had been.
When the Defence White Paper was eventually put before the House, in his winding up speech on 8th March, 1966, the Secretary of State said that all major decisions had been taken. A major decision was announced to the House last week. We understand that another major decision will be announced in defence cuts next week. Almost every day that he carries on with his disastrous reign, we have announcements of these major decisions, which certainly have not been taken as a result of the Defence Review.
I was disappointed that we received no indication of the Secretary of State's thinking as to whether this was to be a co-operative aircraft with Europe or with America, or whether we would go it alone. We were given no idea. We heard so much about the contingency planning earlier on, but we heard nothing on this aspect this afternoon. When the Secretary of State announces the result of his review, if he comes up with the fact that there is no need for an AFVG after all, which is what I believe some hon. Members opposite believe, then perhaps presumably he would have cancelled the AFVG rather than let the French do it. Or was he waiting for the French to do it? This is a slightly illogical approach. Most people in the House who have been studying the problem will have heard with mixed anger and sadness that something which was the very core of the Labour Government's defence and industrial programme has now been upset.
Surely this underlines the unwisdom of not having carried the TSR2 programme just a little further. When this programme was cancelled, we on these benches asked that the three prototypes should be alowed to fly and complete their flight testing programme. It would have cost only another £2 million to have got all the lessons, particularly the lessons on the nav/attack and electronic systems which was in, I think, the third prototype.
However, the Secretary of State, in his wisdom, decided that he would not fly them. Not only that, but he insisted that all the jigs and tools should be broken up and destroyed. So there was no going back. We have never had an explanation of why that was necessary. Now that the substitute aircraft has turned out to be a paper aircraft, the unwisdom of those decisions becomes manifest.
It is for the Government, having made this blunder, to tell us what is to be put in its place. I think that Britain ought to lead a project. Time is short. We have lost a valuable two and a half further years. We cannot go on shopping round trying to get international co-operation on an internationally agreed operational requirement. All this takes time, as we saw with the AFVG. Therefore, I believe that we should say that we will have a British lead project—AFVG type, but probably simpler and certainly cheaper.
I suggest that the variable geometry feature should be included, because I do not believe that at this juncture Britain ought to opt out of variable geometry. We must remember that the Concord is not variable geometry. But the American equivalent—the SST—is variable geometry. We must remember that the French industry has gained some experience in the design and construction of a prototype of a variable geometry Mirage IIIG.
Are we to be the only nation which will not get variable geometry experience? This would be very bitter, as the original thought and idea came from this country. Although we have to examine the merits of variable geometry and of vector thrust, I would think that for a long time to come variable geometry may well be th most economic in payload and in range and it would be worth producing one project in this country based on that system.
We should say in a wholehearted manner that we will produce this aircraft to meet the operational needs of our defence forces—of the Royal Air Force—and then let us go to other aircraft industries in Western Europe and say, "We are going to do this. If you like, if you want to make a purchase, will you contribute some part of this aircraft?" I believe that this is the way to do it. Let us firmly say, "We are going to do it" and then let others come in and make a bid and tell us what they might contribute in both hardware and, above all, in a market.
It should be remembered that in the period we are talking about—the mid-1970s—1,400 F104s will need replacing. They were sold to countries outside the United States. These countries will be looking for replacements, so there is a tremendous potential export market here. I do not think that we should neglect it. I have a feeling that Australia and other Commonwealth countries will be looking for something of this nature.
I personally believe that we should be the master contractor, the prime designer, because, although international co-operation is a fine thing—we have all paid lip-service to it—it complicates matters. I have some experience of this. I declare an interest, in that I am with a firm which is working on the Concord. Liaison with one's French opposite numbers takes time, costs money, and leads to misunderstandings which have to be righted. The cost of an international project is probably about 20 per cent. greater than that of a national one. The time taken to develop one is also 20 per cent. greater. I do not believe that we can afford that time. That is why I urge that we should take the lead and that we should be the prime contractor.
It is worth noting also that the Americans are hard after us on this. We read today that Mr. Cuss got in his aircraft and arrived here on Monday morning, the very second the AFVG had been cancelled, as soon as he could get away, with the proposal that perhaps Britain and Germany might co-operate in making or buying the FX aircraft. The interesting thing here is that this is an aircraft which the United States forces do not want, so they aim to produce, or they are trying to produce, an aircraft for export only, whereas I am advocating an aircraft which would not only help to equip our own forces, help fill in the disturbing gap which has now been left, but also, I believe, be very valuable in the export field.
It would be unwise for me to say that, because much depends on the size of the market. We should go to potential buyers—the Dutch, perhaps the Swedes, who have a very good aircraft industry, and others—and try to get a larger market. If the R and D costs could be shared over a much wider market, this would bring the net unit cost of the aircraft substantially down. I do not think that the Opposition are in a position to know exactly how many might be made and what the actual cost would be.
If this decision cannot be taken, if it is felt that we must go to the United States and have a joint project with them, I hope that this time the Government will insist on a very firm quid pro quo. Interdependence as a phrase has been thrown across the House and across Congress. I have always found that "interdependence" in American minds means, "You depend on us, and we depend on nobody".
We now have ordered 2,000 million dollars worth of American aircraft as a result of the Labour Government's actions last year and the year before. That is a tremendous sum. If we are to buy or co-operate in a joint venture with the Americans, we should say, "Yes, by all means sell us this airframe or that airframe or this design, but, please, we want a firm quid pro quo." Rolls Royce is one of the best aero-engine manufacturers in the world, but even it has found it almost impossible to get into the civil market in the United States of America. This is an area where a quid pro quo could do this country a great deal of good.
We condemn the Minister of Defence, too, because, despite assurances given to the House and despite the fact that we were told in November that contingency planning was in a state where an almost immediate announcement would be made about a replacement, we now learn that there was very little contingency planning. The B.A.C. project team, only after the cancellation of the AFVG, has been turned on to the study of an alternative. There must have been other project teams available which could have been put to work much earlier and could have honoured the solemn undertaking given both by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulloy), now Minister of State at the Foreign Office, and the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology, who is responsible for aviation matters, who gave us the same assurance that contingency planning was going on.
I remember the Prime Minister in the very early days of his first 100 days saying that he believed in a viable British aircraft industry. His words were that the British economy demanded a "healthy aircraft industry." After two and a half years our aircraft industry is manufacturing, producing and selling aircraft, but the design end of the aircraft industry must be our concern, because, unless new ideas are fed in to keep the project teams working, we cannot possibly have a healthy and viable aircraft industry in 1975.
We censure the Minister because he made a paper aircraft the core of his whole policy, and this paper aircraft has proved to be a fallacy. He also deceived the House by pretending that there was contingency planning when there was little or none. I hope that those who believe that our aircraft industry has a future will come into our Lobby tonight to make certain that these incompetent hands of the present Secretary of State for Defence are taken off the tiller and to allow this industry "to go places" under a sensible administration.
I do not wish to engage in any recriminations, because I realise how important this industry is, particularly in my own constituency. Although the Secretary of Defence has been unfairly attacked this afternoon, I was sorry that in an interruption he should have suggested that the Labour statement that the AFVG was the core of our aircraft programme was something less. To me the core has always meant the centre. For him to suggest that the core can be removed was to suggest that he could eat an apple in that way. I do not eat an apple in that way. I leave the core until last after all the flesh has been removed. We were promised that the AFVG was the centre of our aircraft programme.
I am no expert on this subject, like my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), but as soon as I started to study the problem I began to see the wood through the leaves based on readings of the opinions of experts and of an expert committee. The first lesson that I learned was that commercial success depends on a long production run-through in the industry, and that is dependent upon a large market. It is clear that this is no problem in the United States and in Soviet Russia, because the home market in both countries is very large and, in addition, they have markets amongst their political satellites and allies with great political support from their Governments. However, the United Kingdom's industry is in a particularly difficult position. It has the third largest aircraft industry in the world, but it has capacity far too large for the home market. In that case international co-operation is absolutely vital. Where can it look for this international co-operation? It cannot look to the United States to find an equal partner, because the United States is so big. The United States does not need our help or our co-operation.
I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see that in any co-operation with the United States we should get a fair share of the design work. It was suggested in The Times yesterday that we might get some help from the McDonnell Company in building a swing-wing version of the Phantom, but I fear that we would only be a junior partner contributing to the development costs and largely losing the air frame work to the United States.
Whatever arrangement we come to we must keep our excellent design team at Warton. I should like assurance from the Secretary of State for Defence that he will do that and will provide work for this excellent team. It is not true, as my hon. Friend has said, that we have not lost designers to America. We certainly have, and we did so after the cancellation of the TSR2, which was a policy which I supported in the knowledge that we had the AFVG as the core of our aircraft programme.
Undoubtedly our best hope for co-operation is in Europe, because Britain leads in design and in the industry generally. Co-operation with a European country would mean that Britain would have a leading part; she would not just be a hanger-on to a bigger industry. Therefore, the Secretary of State for Defence was right in trying to carry through this agreement and, as he said, he had the support of both sides of the House. I do not feel that he has failed in trying to bring this agreement about. Where the blame lies, I am not sure.
I am no expert, but it seems to me in my commonplace way that there is a certain amount of duplicity on the side of the French Government. That might as well be said at least by backbenchers, if not by the Front Bench, because it shows that we must be very careful in the future. Some of my hon. Friends, with whom I am normally very friendly, have been congratulating the French Government on withdrawing from the project, because they were saving money on defence. However, they have overlooked the fact that the real problem over defence with the French Government is that they are spending too much on nuclear armament, and that is no cause for congratulation. The French Government are committed to expanding their nuclear programme and that will have a bad effect on any efforts by this or any other country in bringing about a non-proliferation agreement. As I have made clear, I support reducing defence costs if it is not done by under-equipping our forces or buying from the United States, but rather by reducing the numbers of men, especially those stationed abroad, and also by reducing our commitments.
But France is not entirely to blame for the failure of the AFVG project. Our chief difficulty is, and always will be as long as this position remains, that we have an American-orientated defence policy. There is great difficulty in negotiating with European countries, because Europe is concerned with the defence of Europe and not with defence policies in the further parts of the world. France was naturally reluctant to share the cost of an aircraft with greater range and other qualities which were required for an east of Suez policy which France itself abhors. When we are bound to the American defence policy, we are bound to a policy beyond our means and beyond the economic capacity of our aircraft industry. It cuts us off from our natural partners in Europe.
The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) probably agrees with the views of some of us on this side of the House about an east of Suez policy and if he said that tonight he would put substance into the Opposition's objections to the Government's present defence policy. He has said it in different parts of the country with candour and great courage and if he does not receive support from his hon. Friends, he will certainly receive massive support from this side of the House.
If the United Kingdom continues to be a hanger on to American defence policy, it will be a hanger on to United States defence industry, and in this way Britain will lose her best brains in defence technology to the United States and, furthermore, her independence in defence and foreign policy.
In the meantime, what should we do? I must admit to being somewhat confused, not being an expert, but I have some ideas about what we should not do. There have been four or five suggestions in the Press recently, but certainly on no account should we buy any more F111s at £5 million each, or any other United States aircraft off the shelf. I would rather quicken our inevitable departure from the Far East. I think that the Government, as well as one or two right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench, know that that departure is inevitable. If it is, why not prepare for it now, instead of spending money on aircraft which we will probably never need, especially if we have to buy them from America? Let us be frank and admit that this situation has been forced on us and that we ought to act all the more quickly. It will then be much easier to co-operate with the countries of Europe in aircraft production.
However, if it is necessary to have a substitute for the AFVG and if we cannot get co-operation in Europe, we should produce it ourselves. Let us remember that the costs are not just in the actual costs alone but in balance of payments difficulties, independence, defence and foreign policy and perhaps steps towards more likelihood of peace in the world. Moreover, the industry will be absolutely vital to our advanced technology. All these matters should be considered by the Secretary of State and I hope that he will take this opportunity for vitally changing the emphasis of the de fence policy of Great Britain.
I think that we all found the speech of the hon. Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) interesting. I think that he will agree that he was fooled by his own Government into agreeing to support the scrapping of the TSR2 in the belief that there was to be a substitute. I was a little puzzled when towards the end of his speech he used the words, "If it is necessary", suggesting that there was some doubt about whether it was necessary to find a replacement for the swing-wing fiasco which we are debating.
I should like to register a rather strong protest that the Secretary of State for Defence should have attended such an extraordinarily small amount of our debate. He made his own speech and then listened to the Opposition Front Bench speech, but since then he has not been in the Chamber. As the debate centres around him, his absence shows a certain disregard for the views of the House itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is the Opposition Front Bench spokesman?"] My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has just this moment left the Chamber.
Although I have criticised the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence, there are many things about which I agree with him. I agree with him when he described the situation as a very serious matter. With this Government we seem to lurch from one crisis to another each more serious than the last and this has been the case with every Labour Administration since 1924. The present Government are no exception, except that with practice they appear to be learning to accelerate the process.
There are many reasons for this swing-wing fiasco and I should like quickly to list one or two. It is my belief that France does not like the British Labour Party any more than do my hon. Friends and I. That is nothing to be wondered at. I need not go back through history, but within a fortnight of being elected, the Government caused great anger and bitterness throughout Europe by hamhandedly imposing the import surcharge.
It is indeed. It is about collaboration between ourselves and the Fench and I am trying to explain why that collaboration has broken down.
The second instance to which reference has already been made was the casting of doubt on the future of the Concord project, a casting of doubt which caused M. Pompidou, the French Prime Minister, to comment that
it seemed to indicate a certain contracting out of Europe in favour of the United States".
In a brief intervention earlier, I reminded the House of certain things said by the Secretary of State himself only a year ago when he said that President de
Gaulle was a bad ally in N.A.T.O. and a bad partner in the Common Market.
I am glad to hear that for a change the right hon. Gentleman has support from the hon and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). It is perfectly true that the right hon. Gentleman saw fit to apologise to the House. That was wisdom on his part and showed that he was capable of doing something which the Prime Minister himself is constitutionally incapable of doing.
I will say no more on that except that the mishandling of our relations with France in recent years has quite a lot to do with the situation in which we now find ourselves. Now the birds are coming home to roost.
A second reason for this crisis is the vain search of every Labour Government for defence on the cheap. It is a search for cheap solutions and, maybe in this particular instance, for subsidies from the French taxpayer. What this Government have never grasped is that it is militarily dangerous and economically false to equip ourselves with weapons which are not of the very best standard.
One thing which we cannot afford in these dangerous days is a weapon system which does not do its job. That is a fact of life which the Government have shown themselves to be incapable of grasping. A third underlying reason for this situation is the ceaseless attempts of Labour Governments to compromise with their Left wing. This is a hopeless task, because the appetite of the Left wing for cancellations, withdrawals, savings and disengagements is insatiable. We know that when the Secretary of State for Defence made his announcement on 5th July about this breakdown, many of his hon. Friends were delighted with this collapse of Anglo-French co-operation. It can be seen in HANSARD.
I admit that it must be very difficult for a Secretary of State for Defence serving with a Labour Government. It would be less than fair not to acknowledge that. It must be difficult, sitting at the Cabinet table and looking round and seeing the number of avowed neutralists and C.N.D. supporters among one's colleagues.
The hon. Gentleman may say that this is kid's stuff, but it is one of the underlying reasons for the breakdown. In answer to the hon. Gentleman, let me say that it was a well-known figure who said:
If, as I sincerely hope, the electorate return a Labour Government at the General Election, then this will be a long step forward on the road to victory for C.N.D.
I said that the birds are coming home to roost. I have become very conscious throughout this debate of the folly of those earlier cancellations. I well remember a comment made eighteen months ago by the then Minister of Aviation. Having butchered our aircraft programme, he has now gone to the Home Office, where he is busy with other types of abortion. He said that the TSR2 was the enemy, not only of budgetary economy, but of French collaboration.
That rings a little hollow tonight, because tonight we have neither French collaboration nor the TSR2. Three years ago the aircraft programme promised to make the Royal Air Force the finest-equipped Air Force in the world. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) pointed out that this Government put in the bulldozers to crush the jigs and the tools. They issued special orders that the drawings should be burned so that this astonishing British achievement was foully done to death.
Tonight, like Banquo's ghost, the TSR2 is a spectre at the feast. It is the uninvited guest in the Chamber. As far as I know, one of the prototypes is still in my constituency. It stands outside the hangar, neglected and deteriorating in the weather. There was nothing like it in the world, but today it serves only as a monument to Socialist irresponsibility. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but we saw it flying regularly day by day. It flew up to the Pennines, down to the Scillies. It exceeded the highest hopes of its own designer—
It was the outstanding military aircraft of the decade and tonight the Secretary of State for Defence deserves very little sympathy. He had the ball at his feet. He inherited the best that British scientists could produce, but he thought that he knew better. Today we see the results of his folly. I am glad to see that he has now rejoined us. I am glad he has reappeared, so that I can say that it is clear that no saving will result by substituting the F111 for the TSR2. We have heard that further F111s are to cost 16 million dollars each. It is clear that a yawning gap now exists in our defence; it is clear that no Government plans for filling that gap exist; it is clear that the Government have been grossly negligent in their supreme duty, and it is clear that the only honourable course left to the Secretary of State is to tender his resignation.
Rarely has there been an occasion when this House has listened to a speech of the level of that just given by the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Michael Hamilton). Most of us would regret that the time available in this debate has been used in this way by the Opposition, for purely party political purposes. There are Members on both sides of the House who are able and willing to contribute to the scientific and technical aspects of the problem facing us over the future of the aircraft industry.
If ever there was an occasion when the Opposition should not be making use of this debate to censure the Government, it is now. It should be recognised that our own Ministers have done all that they possibly can, in collaboration with the French, to get the AFVG off the ground. Tonight, we are not here because the Minister has cancelled this project, but because the French have pulled out of it. We recognise that although we want European collaboration, there is always the chance that the uncertainty of such a project will bring about changes.
There are obvious signs of nostalgia on the benches opposite that we should ever have cancelled TSR2. Yet the reasons for that have been given time and again. The project would have been available too late, and would have been far too costly. Having heard the Minister's explanation about the negotiations and con- sultations with the French on the variable geometry aircraft, I hesitate to say that we failed in any way to make the best of the deal. The Opposition has made no effort to pin the blame upon the Minister for the present situation. Further, it has not convinced any of us that had it been in power it would have made a better deal.
The Opposition are in no position to censure the Government on aircraft policy, as they do from time to time, because, having been in power for only 33 months, we have had to contend with many of the projects which we inherited after 13 years of Conservative rule when the present Opposition were responsible for the cancellation of over 30 projects running into hundreds of millions of pounds.
If the Opposition want to quote the leaders of the aircraft industry who are critical of the Government, we can quote people who have been critical of the Conservatives. I recall the words of Sir Roy Dobson, Chairman of Hawker Siddeley, who said, not long ago:
The Conservatives just would not make up their minds about anything. They just waffled.
In a debate on the industry on 1st February the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), talking about Government management in the aircraft industry, said:
Let us be honest and above party politics in this and admit that we have not in the past managed these affairs particularly well …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 436.]
That comes ill from someone who has been hammering the Dispatch Box today in an attempt to make party capital out of a serious subject.
We have to use the lessons of the past to see our way into the future. We as a Government inherited immense obligations in many parts of the world, and, despite our repeated aim of cutting down our defence spending quite drastically, we recognise that we have to negotiate our way out of many commitments without leaving economic and other hardships for those who remain. We recognise that the care of people is important in any part of the world.
Since they have been in power, the Government have been engaged in comprehensive reviews of our defence spending and foreign policy to ensure that the national economic resources match our defence needs, and vice versa. It is proper that the House should be very concerned about the French change of mind on the AFVG aircraft. This comes as a shock because we recognise that we need collaboration with Europe if we are to become independent of American domination in many respects, particularly aircraft needs. We must, therefore, do everything we can, despite this setback, to develop closer ties with the French and our European partners.
Those are most important points, but my right hon. Friend the Minister made a wise comment when he said that occasions like this provide a good chance for us to review the policy. When projects are cancelled either as a result of our own wishes or the wishes of others it is time to ask whether we need such a sophisticated aircraft of this type and with this costly specification. Only another defence review, which we expect shortly, will reveal that.
Secondly, we must ask ourselves whether we can afford it if we need it. If the Government are to rebuild a sound economy and to carry out their social programme, they must halt the rise in defence spending. Most Members would agree that it would be unwise to go ahead automatically with another AFVG regardless of our need. We recognise only too well that world events change from time to time. The events in the Middle East in the last few months, changes in the balance of power, and so on, make it important and imperative that the Government should review our defence programme and needs.
It is important always to remember that it is the greatest folly to be militarily strong and economically weak. We therefore have to keep a very good balance so that the country is strong in both respects. But, having decided our defence needs and what we can afford, we must ensure that our forces get the very best equipment for the tasks lying before them. It is as foolish to provide too high a specification of our needs as it is criminal to underestimate them.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that we should always have a fair assessment through intelligence services of the thinking in various parts of the world. This is very important when we are collaborating on projects with other countries. Then, having decided on the needs, the questions of cost and timing, the supply of spares and the servicing of the aircraft are vital factors. It is difficult for any Minister to estimate the needs of the country based on the defence situation and the foreign policy of eight to 10 years' ahead, which is the time that it takes to design, develop and produce a major aircraft and to train the personnel to use it. It is inevitable that in that time there will be many changes in the world which may well make the vehicle obsolete when it is ready. It is, therefore, always a good thing to have the opportunity to review our specifications, and I hope that the Government will take the opportunity to do that now.
I would underline the comment of several of my hon. Friends that we should do all that we can to avoid buying American aircraft. I have made that point repeatedly in the House and elsewhere, because it affects our independence, it costs vital dollars and it saps the confidence of the world in the British aircraft industry whose designers, manufacturers and workers are the best to be found anywhere. It is only because this country has a limited environment in competition with America and other big markets that we do not always have the opportunity to get in on the kind of projects where our skill, enterprise and experience can show in the best design.
I underline the point of several of my hon. Friends who drew attention to the brain drain in the industry in recent years. This has happened under both Conservative and Labour Governments. In 1966, the situation was particularly gloomy. The Report of the Society of British Aerospace Companies states that in 1966 about 1,345 personnel of the S.B.A.C. member groups went overseas or to foreign-owned companies based in this country. Most of them went to the United States and United States firms in this country. The reasons which are given are, first, wages and conditions and, secondly, disquiet about the future of the aircraft industry in this country. The other reasons for people leaving are very minor compared with these. These are two important aspects and they deserve far more attention than they get.
We must, therefore, ensure that there are incentives to people to stay in this country, depending on the money available to aircraft workers to ensure that they get what they are worth in relation to other forms of national endeavour. We must ensure that the Government can give the continuity and security and assurances which are essential to an aircraft industry which is to prosper. No one can doubt that the ups and downs of the industry have been due largely to the uncertainty which prevailed over many years. However, no Government can be expected to make good in 33 months the damage which has been done over many years by its predecessors.
The Plowden Report on the aircraft industry made at least six recommendations which deserve our attention. They included the need for European collaboration on a wide range of products; concentration on projects whose costs were not disproportionate to the market; purchase from the United States only when other markets could not provide the needs; and improved machinery in Government and industry to manufacture and sell and to sustain the export drive. In the latter case, we note with some pleasure that aerospace exports to America are in the highest category. Those points made by the Plowden Report should be borne in mind. We should not overlook the fact that there should be far more public control in the aircraft industry, as the Report suggests.
When we talk about projects, whether major or otherwise, we cannot ignore the technical spin-off which comes from a strong aerospace industry, an industry which always ought to be making demands, which should always be pushing back the frontiers of technology, making demands on management, scientists, technicians and engineers and demanding new techniques which can be used in civil ways as well and forcing the pace for the future. In all these things we recognise that there must be partnership between the Government, the industry and all concerned in ensuring that our aircraft industry has a good future.
We ought also to remember, however, that in addition to any military spending which is considered necessary, we should be doing all that we can to deploy our rather limited resources of manpower, money and materials in civil fields in particular. Thanks to the Government, we are giving a lead in this way in machine tools, computers, hovercraft and other science-based projects. Our Ministers can tell a story which is most encouraging in all those directions as a result of the policies which we are now pursuing but about which we hear very little.
The Royal Aeronautical Society, of which I am a member, has recently put forward to the Government a memorandum recommending certain changes. It calls for an organisation within the Ministry of Defence which would assess the extent to which our national needs can be fulfilled from wholly British production, from products built in collaboration with other countries in Europe and products purchased from abroad but with British participation. I am encouraged to know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology has set up a group in his Ministry to concentrate on these points.
Those are some of the matters which must be borne in mind if our industry is to play its part in world affairs. It ill becomes the Opposition tonight to use this occasion, which is in no way the responsibility of the Government, to put forward party points. The Opposition should be taking the opportunity, as some of my hon. Friends are doing, of putting forward points concerned with technology, science and management, recognising that it is a partnership of Government, Opposition and industry which, in the end, will result in our designers, engineers and management making the contribution that they should be making in the world of the future.
The hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop) rightly said that it takes something like eight years to design, develop and bring to the production stage a new aircraft project. It is in that context that we should view the censure Motion which has been tabled by the Conservatives.
We are not talking about the expenditure of large sums of public money, as, unfortunately, we have done in the past on some of these occasions. I understand that only about £2 million has gone into the studies which we have undertaken jointly with the French. While everyone would agree that the cancellation is most regrettable and leaves a gap which the Minister of Defence must do his utmost to fill as speedily as possible, we are not talking about something which will place enormous burdens on the taxpayer or which cannot be corrected in time to meet the operational requirement, which will not arise until 1975.
Therefore, the Conservative censure Motion is not a very useful one because it does not make suggestions about how we should employ the eight years which the hon. Member for Newark has mentioned to equip the Royal Air Force with the kinds of aircraft that it will need in the 1970s. Indeed, the Opposition Front Bench spokesman said this afternoon that he would not make any suggestions about this. That was what he said in a number of other aviation debates. Although the Opposition cannot be expected to go into the same amount of detail as the Government of the day, as the right hon. Gentleman rightly pointed out, not having access to the papers in the Ministry of Defence, it is up to us at least to state the sort of principles on which we believe that our aircraft procurement policy should be based.
I would like to point to the contrast between the Opposition Motion, which is entirely negative, and the constructive suggestions which the Liberal Party put forward in their Amendment. Although you did not select it for debate, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that that is no reflection on the merits of the Motion, with which a good many hon. Members on both sides, if they were to leave party politics out of account, would find themselves in hearty agreement.
I am gratified to hear you say that, Mr. Speaker, because I had intended to do so.
The right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) said that the Conservatives had welcomed the AFVG and wanted it to succeed but that, at the same time, he would be critical of the Government for putting all their eggs into one international project. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there are many other projects which are going ahead satisfactorily. There is no doubt about their viability and the future work that they will give to the British aircraft industry. There are the Spey Comet, for example, and the Harrier, two wholly British projects, as well as the Jaguar and the joint helicopter projects which we have with the French.
In the short term, therefore, as the Minister rightly said, there is nothing which need cause workers in the British aircraft industry any anxiety. I underline again that we have plenty of time in which to make up our minds on which projects they should be working to meet the requirements of the middle 1970s.
I noticed in that connection that the right hon. Member for Mitcham either was not able or did not feel it expedient to answer my question about whether an aircraft to replace the AFVG should have a Far Eastern rôle. This is critical, because it could make a substantial difference to the operational requirement. I hope that when the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) winds up the debate for the Opposition he will give us the benefit of his guidance about this, because in other debates and at Tory Party conferences he has expressed views on Britain's policy east of Suez with which I and my hon. Friends find ourselves in wholehearted agreement, although I am not sure that they commend themselves to the rest of his colleagues on the Tory Front Bench.
We in the Liberal Party have always considered that Anglo-European collaboration on aircraft is the only substitute for complete domination by the United States. Therefore, our attitude can be summed up in the following three complementary points. First, highly sophisticated aircraft like the TSR2 cannot be produced by Britain alone for purely British requirements. Hence the Liberal Party approved the cancellation of the TSR2 last year as being inevitable in the context of the very sophisticated requirements that we would need in the mid-1970s.
Secondly, however, purchases of American aircraft must be kept down to an absolute minimum, otherwise there will no longer be a viable British aircraft industry. That was why we opposed the purchase of the American Hercules, because we considered at the time that the need could well be met by the British aircraft industry. That was not nearly such a sophisticated aircraft as the TSR2. Indeed, it might well have been met by some kind of co-operation with our friends in Europe. I always think that it was a pity that we did not buy the Transall. This may subsequently have affected the attitude of some of our potential partners in Europe.
Thirdly, we say that joint projects like fie AFVG must be vigorously supported. There is no disguising the fact that cancellation of this aircraft will leave a gap, even though I am convinced that it was right for the Secretary of State for Defence to go on trying until the very last moment. I am not sure what the Opposition would have had us do. Do they consider that it would have been desirable for us to order more than 50 FIIIs? Perhaps the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West will answer that question when he winds up for the Opposition.
The Tories never criticised the decision to buy the AFVG. Only now do they appear to be saying that, instead of waiting until the French cancelled it, we should have gone behind their backs and begun negotiations with the Germans, Dutch, and so on, even before M. Messmer had been told by his colleagues that he could no longer proceed with the aircraft. That would have been utterly dishonest. If international negotiations are to be conducted on the basis that, while trying to ca-operate with one partner, we should take out an insurance policy by going secretly to another, no one on the Continent will have any faith in the honesty of the British Government.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to put words in my mouth which I never uttered. I did not suggest secret negotiations. It was the Government who said that contingency planning had got to such an advanced stage that, in the unfortunate event of cancellation of the AFVG, they would immediately be able to tell us what the alternatives were.
I thought that the Secretary of State had explained what the alternative was today. I am asking the right hon. Member for Mitcham if he thinks—because it was implied in his remarks—that, instead of awaiting the decision of the French Government, we should have gone secretly and negotiated with the Germans, Dutch, Italians and any other potential partners we might like to get in with now. If that is his view, I say to him that international negotations could not be conducted on a basis which any of our European partners would accept, and it would make nonsense of the whole idea, which I am sure he agrees is necessary, that our requirements should be met by co-operation in this way.
We shall need a strike/reconnaissance, aircraft for a European rôle in the mid-1970s, and I want to underline the expression "European" because we believe that there is no rôle for the United Kingdom east of Suez in the mid-1970s, even if there is still a continuing rôle in the next few years while we make alternative arrangements with our Far Eastern allies.
I have not found support for that rôle in any European country. They take a more sensible view on these matters and consider that, even for a more united Europe than we have today, it will not be possible in the mid-1970s to interfere and act in a semi-colonial manner in various parts of Asia and the Far East. It does not do us any good. It does not help our trade or our image with these nations in the Far East for them to think that we have a tutelary rôle, even though we are no longer in direct control.
Would the hon. Gentleman clarify, for my benefit at least, what he means when he says that we need a strike/reconnaisance aircraft suitable for operations in a European environment in the mid-1970s? What is a European environment, and against whom does he consider that such a plane would be directed?
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me, I will come to explain how such an aircraft might be slightly different if it is considered for a purely European rôle, as opposed to operating in the Far East as well.
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and one other hon. Gentleman opposite asked whether the aircraft to fill this role ought to be a swing-wing type. There is a danger that we have come to accept automatically that it should be, because all the alternatives which have been canvassed so far are of this design. We talk about the possibility of getting more F111s or of a purely British swing-wing aircraft for which a design study is being undertaken at the moment. Another possibility is a joint venture with the Germans, which again would be variable geometry. Then there is talk of collaboration with McDonell on a swing-wing Phantom.
Clearly, it would be desirable, if it is economically possible, for Britain to possess the technology, just as it would be desirable to have the capability of launching large satellites or building a Mach 3 passenger transport.
The project study which the Secretary of State for Defence has initiated may show that a variable geometry aircraft is beyond the resources of this country if we are to contain the defence budget below any level which the people will accept. It may turn out that all the choices which I have mentioned are prohibitively expensive, including the purely British one, and that, when the Government reconsider the operational requirement in the light of our present defence policy, a variable geometry wing is unnecessary for the more limited rôle which we see in a purely European environment.
The advantages of variable geometry are twofold. The first is that it combines a good take-off and landing performance with a very high top speed of well over Mach 2. Secondly, it provides for a greater range aircraft with a given all-up weight.
I am not convinced that these characteristics would be necessary if we considered a purely European rôle. Therefore, there could be a danger of our incurring huge R and D costs by failing to question closely the military justification for very sophisticated requirements. That is exactly what happened with TSR2. We allowed the military people to upgrade the specification it went beyond the resources of our defence budget.
As has been said by other hon. Gentlemen, to try and foresee who the potential enemy might be when such an aircraft comes into service in 1975 would require the sort of crystal ball which no one in the House possesses. We are trying to consider what sort of military operations there would be, and I am saying that I do not envisage this country undertaking any warlike operations outside the Continent of Europe by that date. So it is not necessary to specify who such an enemy might be in order to decide the operational requirements.
I realise that, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not be too long.
The alternatives which have been mentioned are, first, the variable geometry Phantom. As I understand it, this would give us very little R. and D. work. The only advantage to be derived from it is that we could continue to produce Spey engines, as we are doing already. From the point of view of keeping the design staffs busy, it would not benefit the country at all.
The second alternative is the purely British project which I suspect will turn out to be too expensive, although I have no objection to the Secretary of State initiating the study.
Third, there is the possibility of collaborating with the Germans. As has been mentioned, they, too, have budgetary difficulties, and we should bear in mind the point made by the hon. Member for West Lothian that many German firms are tied up with the American aircraft industry, and they might not wish to enter into conflicting arrangements with Great Britain.
Fourth, there is the possibility of buying more F111s. In my opinion, this would be the worst alternative. It would jeopardise still further the prospects for European co-operation. There are those who suggest that buying 50 of them instead of the Mirage IV/Spey, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) and I advocated at the time, caused the French to think that we were not interested in further Anglo-European collaboration. Another argument against it is that if we bought the F111 it would give no work to the British aircraft industry. I do not think that it was seriously suggested that we could build it industrially because the quantities required were too small.
If we are to buy another 50 the same argument will apply. We would have a great burden on our balance of payments which would do nothing to help the British aircraft industry. Perhaps worst of all it would leave us out in the cold from the point of view of the capability of producing any VG aircraft.
I remind the House of what the Prime Minister said in his speech to the European Assembly at Strasbourg. I cannot remember the exact words, but he spoke of the danger of Great Britain becoming a sort of industrial helotry in which we produced the less sophisticated equipment while all the advanced technology is done across the Atlantic on our behalf. The production of additional F111s would worsen the potentiality that he foresaw.
I hope that there will not be any recriminations against the French Government because of their decision. One hon. Gentleman opposite made some recriminations in this connection, but I remind him that the Jaguar is going extremely well. There is a far better design agreement than there was with the Concord, and we have made quite a lot of progress in the machinery of international collaboration on this plane. For example, in the Concord one had a number of different committees both industrial and Governmental.
With the Jaguar there is a much simpler arrangement. There is a joint company known as Sepecat, organised between B.A.C. and Breguet. This shows the way in which we can go forward on other projects. We have the helicopters, and what has not been mentioned, but which could be potentially important, is the agreement between Beagle and Sud Aviation on the development of light aircraft.
My hon. Friends and I want to see the Government continue to pursue a policy of European collaboration which we think is essential in the long term for the preservation of the British aircraft industry. We regret the decision which has been taken, but we think that in the eight years between now and when the strike reconnaissance aircraft comes into service to meet the needs of the Royal Air Force, we have plenty of time to make an alternative decision.
When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence attacked the Tories' efforts to provide us with exclusive aircraft models throughout the years ahead, he certainly carried me with him. They had a series of expensive policies. My only trouble is when my right hon. Friend turns to the other argument and says, "After all, this was only a development of your idea which you are criticising". I think that it was a very bad idea. I believe that this whole idea of developing an aircraft industry with the French was fundamentally a bad idea. I remember one manufacturer saying to me, "It is bad enough to work for one Government. To work for two is ruddy impossible". When I heard my right hon. Friend telling us what happened to the varying specifications for this aeroplane, I thought that he made the point for my manufacturing friend.
I shall come to the Jaguar in a moment. I am not as optimistic as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock).
I was in Paris last November, and all my friends in the aviation industry told me then that the AFVG would not materialise. None of them seemed to have any doubt about that at all. During the debate on the Air Estimates I said, in column 318, that this plane would not materialise, and that it would be cancelled, for reasons which had not emerged at that time.
I would like for a moment to consider what we have lost. I do not think that research and development would have come out at less than £250 million. It had gone up to £240 million, and more was to come. With regard to the time of development, I doubt whether we would have seen it in service before 1978. The requirement was for 300 as a maximum, and the cost, including the research and development, would have worked out at very little under £3 million a plane.
What would we have got for that? We would have got a plane which was inferior to the F111. It would have been smaller, which means that it would carry a smaller load, and have a smaller range, because the two things are interchangeable. As a strike aircraft, it would have been subsonic. It would not have had the swivelling pylon, which would have meant its going subsonic until it got rid of its bombs. Thus, there would have been an inferior F111, 10 years late, at as big a price. This was not built-in obsolescence. It was pre-natal obsolescence, and it did not seem surprising to me that the French would not got on with it.
We are told that consideration is being given to going on with this venture with another partner. Heaven help us if we go in for developing a nuclear bomber with the Germans. I think that the effect on our foreign affairs policy would be difficult if we went in for that. Apart from that, however, this idea of going on with this plane seems to me to be a dead duck before it is even hatched.
I come now to the "choppers", which we are to develop jointly with the French. I take an intensely pessimistic view of this idea. We are committed to 100 of the SA330s, which are inferior in performance and load-carrying capability to the S61 Sikorsky, which we can build here on licence. But in any case we are developing a generation behind, because the future helicopter will be the rigid rotor, which is a big breakthrough. The development of the hot cycle, with the heat taken back through the rotors, will give helicopters a speed of 300 miles an hour, which is about double the speed of those which we are developing. Because we are committed to this arrangement with the French, we seem to be committed to an inferior machine.
Breguet and B.A.C. are working together on a strike trainer, and so far apparently the specification has not been juggled about. It is a Mach 1·7 plane to train people to fly at well over Mach 2. On the other hand, there is the Mirage F, with a speed of Mach 2·2, and the Northrop 530, with a speed of mach 2·4. Northrop 530, with a speed of Mach 2·4. European partner. They produced a plane at the same price, but again we are shackled to the French for an inferior plane.
Finally, we come to the daddy of them all, the Concord. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary did his best to cancel this aircraft, and it is a financial tragedy that he did not succeed. Let us consider what is to happen to the Concord. Research and development at £500 million is to go up another £50 million if we are to get a production of three per month which is wanted. Another £20 million has to be put on, and the cost will not come out at less than £650 million.
What do we get at the end? We get an aircraft of Mach 2·1 or 2·2, with a carrying capacity, across the Atlantic, of 124. There is a porpoise close behind us, in the form of a Boeing. That will fly at Mach 2.7 and will have a carrying capacity of 350. That will be there by 1975. We believe that the Concord will go into service in the 1972 season. Let us consider the cost. We have spent about £70 million on it already and we shall probably spend another £580 million. Have the French and ourselves, between us, anything like enough draughtsmen and other people to be able to cover a research and development programme of that size in that time?
It means a capacity to spend about £130 million a year. On the TSR2 it took us six years at maximum effort to spend that amount. Why do we suddenly think that we can get this tremendous advance? I do not think that the capacity is there. I think that we shall see the date going further and further back, while that of the Boeing, much more advanced and powerful, gets nearer and nearer.
Then there is the boom problem, which will affect the market. If it is acceptable over land we may sell 160, but if it is not we shall be lucky to sell 60. If we sell 100, what will the costs be? They will involve about £6½ million on research and development per aircraft, and another £10 million plus on production. We shall be lucky to sell these aircraft at £7 million each, so we are to sell the aircraft at a loss of £8 million or £9 million per plane. This will make groundnuts look like the bargain basement of financial disasters.
I do not believe that our aviation industry or any other has a future unless it is prepared to go into partnership with the great Power, namely, America. As I see it, the future of our aircraft industry lies in our going into partnership with the Americans, who have the resources to develop aircraft of the next generation instead of the last generation—which is what we are doing—and who have the market for those aircraft.
Of course we should be junior partners, but we should be fully employed junior partners. There is a great requirement. The Americans are pushing research and development to capacity. They would use every bit of research and development capacity that we have if we went into partnership with them. The whole thing would be spread and worked and organised. We should be fully employed. We should be junior partners, as British Timken are junior partners of Timken of America. It is a highly effective enterprise and of enormous advantage to my constituents. This is the only kind of future for the British aircraft industry.
As for defence requirements—first, we should not replace the AFVG. It does not fit into the picture of the kind of Power that we are. The production of 300 aircraft at a cost of £3 million each is not economic unless the aircraft are nuclear bombers. The damage which we could do with them is disproportionately small to the damage that we would receive because of the vulnerability of that kind of aircraft.
Secondly, independence defence capacity does not depend on having exclusive models built for oneself by oneself. Israel displayed a certain amount of independent defence capacity without an aircraft industry. It is defence folly to demand tailor-made equipment for this country. It is not only in the women's dress trade that an exclusive model is disproportionately expensive. At this point we ought to shop off the shelf. We ought to consider our defence requirements and buy where the right things are available.
Curiously enough, this has been the policy of the Marine Corps of America. That provides an extremely good example for us. The Marine Corps has a manpower of about 280,000—about 30,000 less than our combined Army and Royal Air Force. It has far more teeth than our combined Army and R.A.F. It has more aircraft. It has 1,200 operational aircraft, mainly Phantoms. We have a good deal fewer than that. Our attack aircraft number about 450 and are still mostly Canberras and Hunters. The Marine Corps has more lift. It has 250 Hercules, whereas we have a mixed bag of larger-weight carriers of about 100. The Marine Corps has many more and far more effective helicopters.
But the budget of the Marine Corps is only one-third of our defence budget. The Marine Corps has always taken the view that it should never specify. It says, "We will take what arms we can get. We are not going to ask for anything to be developed for us." I think that we should adopt that view.
I take another example from Israel. On mobilisation, in three days she put 270,000 men in the field, with astonishing success and a brilliant victory. Israel's military budget is £150 million a year—one-sixteenth of ours. I wish that we could put up the same kind of performance. Broadly speaking, we have been wandering round the world battered and humiliated. We must reconsider our whole defence policy. We must realise that we are no longer in the top class. We are no longer the kind of chaps who have tailor-made clothes, or special exclusive models. We should wait until the other people have done the developing—which is what the big chaps have to do—and then buy on the cheapest market according to our requirements. We shall not make sense of this programme until we have got that kind of policy.
The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has made a gloomy and pessimistic speech. As always, I listened to him with interest. I have a horrid suspicion that he has been listening to Mr. Worcester. Perhaps I am wrong, but, if, by any chance, that supposition is true, I cannot resist recommending the hon. and learned Member to study the address given by Mr. Worcester to the Aeronautical Society not long ago—not so much for what it contained but for the replies and discussion afterwards, which was terminated rather prematurely by Mr. Worcester.
At the time Mr. Worcester,. I remember, was recommending that the aircraft industry should engage on such projects as two-way radio in a finger ring; river pollution and "a sort of Archimedes screw bicycle". These are interesting ideas but they are somewhat far from reality. I fear that some of the hon. and learned Member's propositions—I have always had the greatest respect for what he says in any speech—are equally unreal. He was saying that we have no hope in Europe and should simply tag along behind the Americans in what he called a partnership.
This is a euphemism. I have no prejudice against a true aviation partnership with the Americans any more than I have against one with the French or anyone else, provided it will pay us, but that means that we must have our fair share of voting, executive and design control. It must be built around British airframes as well as American. Our experience to date of co-operation with the Americans—I do not blame them; alas they are often more hard-headed than we in their matters—has shown no willingness to develop such a partnership, so the House should not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion is the only future for the British aircraft industry. It would be a sad day if it were.
Now I turn to the speech of the Secretary of State for Defence. The Secretary of State is very fond of the word "trounce". He said the other day that he had "trounced" one of my right hon. Friends and today put forward the obvious proposition that we would be "trounced" in the Lobbies, and also said that he had already trounced my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) for a speech which he has not yet made; we can judge that when the time comes. However, I am afraid the only institution which, at the end of the day, has been "trounced" by the right hon. Gentleman is the British aircraft industry.
He said nothing to encourage me to think that there will be much of a turn for the better. There have been some constructive and interesting speeches by hon. Members opposite, and they have been in marked contrast to the sort of bombastic nonsense to which we were subjected by the Secretary of State, and which was no answer to the devastating attack by my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr).
This trouble dates from the Government's original cancellations when they came to power. They have since advanced rationalisation for these, but anyone connected with the industry knows that they cancelled first and thought afterwards. All the rationalisation has been post facto. The Plowden Committee to inquire into the industry was set up after they had written off every military project. It is the result of this record which we are debating.
With the possible exception of the P1127, the Harrier, there is nothing in the military field of technological significance. In civil aviation, the programme is notoriously unsteady and in space our record compared with that of our obvious competitors is contemptible. I am glad that at least the right hon. Gentleman did not give us all the figures which he trotted out last time, and this is understandable, as there is nothing any longer with which to compare the projects he has cancelled. For two years or more we have been chasing—I say this advisedly—a mirage.
This miserable record stemmed from ignorance, prejudice and irresponsibility in the field of aviation; the blame rests primarily with the Prime Minister and the hatchet man, the present Home Secretary, but to a large measure now with the Secretary of State. He has been caught out for three main reasons—first, because he failed to see the long-term military and commercial significance of the programme which he inherited, second, because he accepted the conclusions, together with the military implications, of the Plowden Report, an ill-prepared, ill-digested and amateur exercise, and, third, because he had made our defence policy and the aircraft industry dependent on foreign design and manufacture through the vast purchase of American aircraft and through his naïve conception of European co-operation.
The right hon. Gentleman waded into contracts without checking whether there was compatibility of requirement, as the inn. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) pointed out tellingly. The Government have exercised no hard business sense in this co-operation and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has listened to the hard-headed advice which the industry has been giving him for the industry has been giving him to my knowledge for years, certainly for more than one, over this project.
Our first guiding principle should he to establish and work from a position of strength. This is big business: it is not dreamland. We must establish, second, that there is a real mutual requirement with our prospective partner and, third, that the project is economic in world terms and saleable.
But this Government have hawked the British aviation industry around Europe, giving away advantage after advantage. We held a 10-year lead over the Europeans which has been whittled away by the French in particular until they have outpaced us in a number of technologies. The Secretary of State is largely responsible for these misjudgments and the results are grave indeed. There is yet another crisis in our air defence capacity and in our technological advance.
Why did the French cancel? Was it really for financial reasons? Finance for the French in aviation is a matter of priorities as it is for us, though they give it higher priority than do the British Government. But I doubt whether finance was the sole or even the main reason. Compatibility of requirement certainly played a part, but there is another factor. In announcing the cancellation and again in his speech today, the Secretary of State said that he had been given assurances that the French did not intend to develop an aeroplane called the Mirage G. I am sure that he did not intend to mislead us or think that he was, but we must examine this proposition, because it demonstrates an extraordinary innocence and naïvety.
This aeroplane is produced by M. Dassault, who has, I guess, put into the research and development of the programme to date about £12 million. This variable geometry aeroplane is on the tarmac now, and is due for a first flight in a few days. It is a fact, not an "option" or a drawing. M. Dassault, as anyone connected with the French industry will appreciate, is a prudent and powerful man. He is very intimate with General de Gaulle, of whom he has been a close friend for many years. Why should he have put £12 million into a project of this kind, in the same technology and rolled out the week before the AFVG was cancelled?
Is it really true that nothing can be done with it and that this is only a flight test vehicle? I doubt it. The French can do four things with it. If they put in the Secma TF306 engine, it will meet the naval requirements. If they give it a twin-engined configuration, it will suit the Armée de L'Air. If they put in an Atar engine, it would be a serviceable interceptor and with a stretched Atar it would raise the top speed from Mach 2·5 to Mach 3. This also could be a serviceable operational aircraft. Finance for any of these modifications would be a big factor, but I suggest that if it were a question of priorities, then the priority is much more likely to have fallen on the side of the Mirage G than on the AFVG. And there goes the core of the British aircraft industry.
I come to what should be done in the light of the cancellation. I think that the Secretary of State was entirely justified in hinting that the F104 replacement is a target of which we should not lose sight. This is of the greatest importance at the moment because of the existence of a project in Europe, to which allusion has been made, in which the Germans and Americans are engaged together and which might fit the requirement. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing) said, there are 1,200 to 1,400 of the F104s flying in N.A.T.O.—five or six N.A.T.O. countries have them—and the aircraft is due to be replaced about 1974
I am almost sure that any British AFVG project into which the Government may now decide to enter, as a result of their project studies, would be flying before the German and American project could do so. If I am wrong, perhaps I could be corrected at the end of the debate. But on the basis of my knowledge, I think that this is very much a starter. As many hon. Members know, N.A.T.O. strategy is one of response at all levels. The present F104 is capable of tactical nuclear and conventional strike, visual identification and an interceptor rôle. It seems to me that this is what we should go for, if we can, with a VG aircraft if we start now.
There are three competitors. The first, I suppose it might be suggested, is the F111, which would meet this requirement, but it is much heavier than the AFVG, if our own design is anything like the present AFVG design. In fact, that design is less than half the weight of the F111, which was designed for another requirement altogether. Secondly, there is the fateful Mirage G, which surely also could be made into a serviceable F104 replacement. In this regard, however, France is outside N.A.T.O. and we ought to stand a better chance on that ground. Thirdly, there is the project to which I have referred in which the Federal Republic of Germany is involved—the advanced variable sweep, as it is known, in which Entwicklungs Ring (Sud) and Fairchild are engaged. I understand that funding is due again in September of this year.
I will accept that from the hon. Gentleman—possibly the Phantom.
We ought at least to consider going to the Germans with a design for an F104 replacement, which might well involve modifications from the original AFVG design, on the basis that they joined us in manufacture and, secondly, on the basis that the German-American project is scrapped. This could still be the basis of a European aircraft industry and of important collaboration. It is an important factor in the proposition that we could probably have our own plane flying and in service before the German-American plane.
I should like to offer a second reflection to the House on the choice before us now that the AFVG has been cancelled. One or two hon. Members have mentioned the Israeli war, and I do not think that any nation can possibly afford to disregard it in the context of air defence. The Israeli Air Force destroyed 300 to 400 aircraft in a pre-emptive strike in a matter of an hour or two. How was this done? Apparently it was done, first, by the use of an ingenious bomb of their own with which they destroyed the runways. They then destroyed the dispersed aircraft by strafing.
It is, I think, significant, that apparently no Arab aircraft—or virtually none—got off the ground once the attack had started. It may be that the aircraft were not adequately dispersed. It has been reported that the Egyptian aircraft were lined up ready to be strafed, but even if another air force had been in their position and had been better dispersed, it seems to me that with the runways destroyed it is doubtful whether many aircraft would have got into the air.
The justification, therefore, for VTO is absolute. That is not new to us in this country. Again, to come back to my premise, the Hawker P1154 would have been the one aircraft in the world—had it not been cancelled—which would have been capable of coping with a pre-emptive strike of that kind.
May I conclude with a few words about our attitude in this country to aviation. I believe that there is a real danger that the aviation industry will become nothing more than an American garage. I am sure that the French have caught and passed us in certain respects—and the reason is simple: the French have a Government which is basically patriotic in the terms in which I understand that. They have a fundamental belief in buying French wherever possible and a fundamental belief in advanced technology and the need to support aviation by any means they can. In this country over the last two years one could reasonably claim that we have suffered from the exact opposite.
The arguments advanced by the Government and confirmed by Plowden are, first, that we should buy major military aircraft off the shelf because the home market is so limited and, secondly, that the only way to increase the market base is through European co-operation. But the first argument can be applied to any advanced technological product. It is exactly the same for British turbo-alternators or British generating stations or British computers. We have a relatively small home market, and if we get out of all advanced technological production and manufacture on the basis of this argument, as the Government are getting us out of the aircraft industry, it will not be long before we shall simply be reduced to manufacturing plastic buckets and perambulators—out of the hunt altogether. This is the arena of power today, and we cannot afford to give up on that basis, because it is a false argument.
European co-operation depends on the certainty of the market, the viability of the requirements and the strength of the contract. We cannot force people to buy what they do not want to buy. Many people hold—perhaps some hon. Members hold—that the best way of organising co-operation is for us to specialise by types of aircraft rather than to split the work. The Government should at least be looking into that suggestion in the light of the failure which vie are debating.
International co-operation in my view is entirely sensible as a re-insurance, but not as a firm foundation for a successful aircraft industry. The French realise this clearly. Their investment in space i3 75 per cent. to their own industry and only 25 per cent. international, whereas in this country it is almost exactly the other way round—25 per cent. to our industry and 75 per cent. international. Surely in the light of the developments over the last week we can see a lesson here.
The consequences of this muddle and neglect of British aviation—not, perhaps, through intent; I am not suggesting that—through muddled thinking and the wrong conclusions, are serious indeed. I am certainly not suggesting that everything was right before the Government came to power. The Secretary of State will accept that from me since I have written it as well as said it many times. But there was previously a disposition to support aviation and in the end there was a firm military programme of enormous international importance which he inherited.
I begin to feel that it will not be very long—perhaps not as long as many of my hon. Friends believe—before these responsibilities are again in our hands in the Conservative Party. I hope that when that time comes it will not be too late, that we shall salvage something out of this mess, and that we shall be able to rebuild an aircraft industry of which we may be as proud as people abroad are proud of the achievements of our competitors.
I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings), whose expertise and knowledge of the industry I admire. I thought him a little less than fair in his strictures of the Government, particularly when he claimed that they were not defending the interests of the British aviation industry.
Compare, for example, what has taken place in certain respects here with what has taken place in France, whose efforts he praised to the skies. Contrast the instruction given by the Government to B.E.A. not to buy American, but to buy British with Air France's purchase of the Boeing 727–200.
This debate is concerned with a decision made not by this Government, but by the French Government, who decided not to proceed with a joint project which everyone agreed was a good idea. This unfortunate and regrettable decision was taken by the other partner. We cannot bear responsibility for that decision. While one might attempt to show how we might have taken out an insurance policy against what happened, this decision was, clearly, not of our making. As a keen European, I regret what has occurred and I hope that we can continue to build on what has already been started in collaboration with various European countries.
The hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire indulged in a good deal of recrimination. He referred to the P1154 and calmly forgot the P1127, the forerunner of the vertical take-off plane, which we had flying about eight years ago. Last week the Russians announced with a great fanfare that they had a new aircraft and they showed it flying. While its top speed might be superior to the P1127, it is only performing in a way which one of our planes did about eight years ago.
The amazing inability of hon. Gentlemen opposite to appreciate the great lead we had in this sphere and their inability straight away to order a production version of this aircraft meant that we did not have such an aircraft in service later on. Had they ordered a production version, we would probably have been selling these planes by now. Instead, we must depend on the present Government and their plans from October, 1964, to provide for our needs. The aircraft about which I spoke proved itself and if only the Conservative Government of the day had ordered a production run of P1127s things might have been very different.
I did not fully appreciate, this aeroplane having been developed so long ago, that it was not a sophisticated version. If what the hon. Gentleman says is correct, he has certainly added to my knowledge.
Even today the United States, France and Germany—with the exclusion of Russia; so one would gather from the comments I have made about their recent announcement—do not have aircraft comparable with the vectored thrust of the P1127 type. A great opportunity was missed. It is to he regretted that Conservative leaders in the early 1960s did not undertake to develop this aircraft. We could have been benefiting now had they decided to order a production run.
Consider the effect of the cancellation of the AFVG project on the civil programme. I have particularly in mind the European airbus. There are those in the industry, as well as in Parliament, who take the view that we might benefit on the airbus side from the fact that the French have hived off their commitment to the AFVG. It is suggested that more finance may be available to push ahead with the airbus. Others argue that the French action has brought possible Anglo-French collaboration to a degree of disillusionment which augurs ill for the development of the airbus.
I rank the airbus as a project which should have top priority as a joint project, with Germany included, on the basis that the national air lines will take it as part of their firm commitment. I hope that the airbus development will not be affected by the French decision to withdraw from the AFVG project.
Certain problems surround joint collaboration with other countries. There is a whole list of collaborative projects which we have with the French, starting with the Concord. I start with the Concord because I wish to start by attacking hon. Gentlemen opposite. For some time I have been concerned about our failure to get an equal share in bargaining with the French. I have made inquiries about these collaborative projects and particularly about who had the design leadership on the air frame side. I gather that, on the Concord, the French have the design leadership.
On the Jaguar project, the French also have the design leadership. I think it fair to say that in at least two out of the three helicopter projects the French also have the design leadership. I do not know who can claim the design leadership on the Martel project. Only this afternoon my right hon. Friend announced that the design leadership on the air frame side on the AFVG project was ours, but, unfortunately, this has now fallen by the wayside. Because of our commanding lead on the engine side, presumably the French were able to argue that they should have the leadership on the air frame side.
I hope—and I am thinking particularly of what, I trust, will be a successful European airbus project—that when we come to negotiate the next collaborative project, it will be stressed that we have the third largest aviation industry in the world, employing about 250,000 people—three or four times more than those employed in the Frnch industry—and an industry which is many times larger than the German aviation industry. We can reasonably expect to contribute to such collaborative projects probably much more than we have with some of those I have listed.
I speak as an engineer, and realise that there may be some simple argument against, financial or otherwise, but I wonder whether it would not be possible to overcome national jealousies and pressures by encouraging the formation of a European aviation company to build a European airbus. I see the hon. Member for Esher (Sir W. Robson Brown) shaking his head: if I am wrong in what I say, I shall be glad to hear an explanation.
I thank the hon. Member for that contribution. I said that there might be a good reason why such a thing was not possible.
If we are to enter the Common Market, and so become part of a much larger Western European Union, we will inevitably see the development of European companies, and one wonders why, in this sphere where we already have collaborative projects, we could not, under the encouragement of the various Governments, see the beginning of genuine European cooperation.
I take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and particularly with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who suggested that we should become a very junior partner of the United States of America. I firmly believe that we have an existing asset. It has been suggested that we should allow this asset to die away and turn our attention more to the marine side. It is suggested that it is to that aspect that the engineers and scientists of B.A.C. at Warton should be turning their attention and on which they should be spending their time, and not on developing defence projects.
It is not so simple, even within a period of years, to divert the work of scientists designers, factories and all the rest to something of that kind. It cannot be done. Secondly, in asking the House what exactly we have obtained for the nation's great investment in the aviation industry, my hon. Friend put on one side of the account the industry's exports, and these are very important. But, on the same side, there remains the fact that while we are making our own aircraft we are not having to buy them from abroad, so we are saving on imports.
I know that my hon. Friend does not wish to misinterpret my argument. The dispute between us is simply that I believe that we can have a flourishing civil aircraft industry based especially on a cheap, safe, subsonic aircraft. I am also a very strong supporter of the airbus. I think that we can do this without having a military sophisticated flying machine on the industry's order books.
I know that my hon. Friend takes a great deal of interest in this subject and I respect his views, but the two major aviation nations, apart from ourselves, have undoubtedly based their aviation industry on a very strong military segment. It may be argued that we cannot afford this and should, therefore, try to do without it, but to the best of my knowledge the major advances in aviation tend to be based on advances on the military side. Military requirements tend to be the stimulus for technological advance.
That may be regrettable, but I must say to some of my hon. Friends—and my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian was not necessarily one of them—that if they think that we can in some way avoid having to pay quite heavily for defence—Air Force, Navy and Army—they are flying in the face particularly of what we have seen in the last few months.
I am a keen European, and have advocated bringing our commitments as soon as possible within a European area—and by that I certainly include the Mediterranean—but no one can ignore the fact that there are today many more military dictatorships than democracies in the world, and that they represent a potential threat to our way of life. As long as that position remains, the responsibility of this Government or any other Government is to ensure the safety of the people of these islands.
On that basis we cannot only regard the British aviation industry as the supplier of civil aircraft. We have to have an Air Force capable of defending us and our interests, at least within Europe and, I suggest, within the boundaries of the Mediterranean.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I draw your attention to the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), for whom I have the greatest respect, spoke for about 50 minutes? Out of a sense of decency to those of us who are still waiting to get into the debate, might he not restrain his interruptions at least?
I suppose it can be said that I am provoking my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. No doubt we could continue this later in the Tea Room.
By all means let us look at the new fields for advancement in technology which give a return to the human race, but do not let us do that over the corpse of the British aviation industry. We have an asset here into which we have poured thousands of millions over the years. Sometimes, it is true, there has been a doubful return, but we have great physical assets and ability in it. Let us not waste all that. This is one of the advanced technical industries. Provided that it can produce projects for which we can find a market, it is an industry which should be supported.
I again express regret about the inability of hon. Members to see that we are at the beginning of an air transport explosion. My children or my grandchildren, if I have any, would condemn me for not appreciating this. We should not look forward to a future in which we buy aircraft either from America or the Soviet Union. People will take to the air in increasing numbers; so, also, will freight. The figures are there for everyone to see. For heaven's sake let us make sure that we have a viable, progressive, competent aviation industry which not only protects the security of the country, which is very important, but which enables us to maintain our standard of living on the basis of real export earnings.
It was refreshing to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Robert Howarth) after the speeches of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and from the Government Front Bench. In the speech of the hon. Member for Bolton, East I found much with which I agree.
I was particularly depressed when I heard the Secretary of State for Defence open his argument by suggesting that the last Conservative Government had run down our aircraft industry. He poured great scorn—he is very adept at that—on the fact that we had no supersonic aircraft. Yet, the first thing which the present Government did when they came into office was to cancel the 1154 and to concentrate on the 1127. They cancelled the supersonic version and concentrated on the smaller, less fast plane.
The hon. Member for Bolton, East spoke of the need to develop vertical take-off aircraft to give us a lead in this field. After the cancellations made by the party opposite, Britain lacks projects. I agree with much of what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Hastings) and by the hon. Member for Bolton, East about our need for a major aircraft industry. I do not want to develop my speech at too great length, because I fully take the point made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin). I am sure that he will follow his own advice.
I was about to say that I intend to speak shortly tonight, but I am afraid that I might be misconstrued.
After the cancellation of the tactical strike and reconnaissance plane, the TSR2, which was the crowning folly of the Labour Government, there was the cancellation of the HS681, a transport aircraft. I agree with the last point made by the hon. Member for Bolton, East that, with transport developing in the world, we should be producing a heavy freight aircraft, instead of relying on old-fashioned planes like the Hercules. I speak with feeling here, because I believe t lat the Belfast, which has caused a lot of trouble for Short Brothers and Harlands, because the firm paid for all its development costs, could have been used for a tactical rôle in place of some of the older Hercules which, I believe, are having quite a bit of trouble at the moment and which are not such good planes as the improved Belfast.
Whether or not Britain goes ahead and develops a variable geometry aircraft, we should take advantage of our great lead in vertical take-off. This country has developed two types of vertical take-off plane. As far back as 1958, almost ten years ago, the first vertical take-off plane, the multi-jet SC1, flew successfully at Farnborough. A year or two later it completed the transition from vertical to forward flight and back again. It was followed by the 1127, the deflective type jet. One of these aircraft should be used for the development of a supersonic jet aircraft. This might prove as useful in the future as a variable sweep plane.
Mention was made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton of the success of the Israelis in their recent campaign. That success was based on the Net that they were able to immobilise the enemy before he could get into the air. This type of aircraft is a vertical take-off aircraft which would be able to disperse. Any field behind any farm would be able to carry it. It would be the complete answer to the surprise attack which has been much practised in the past and which the Israelis perfected only a month ago.
I support the plea which was made for better salesmanship. We have a need for the type of salesmanship that Henry I. Cuss has been able to develop—arms salesmanship—for the benefit of the Americans. We have bought Phantoms. We have a very big order for F111s with the United States. What has happened to the offsetting sales of British arms and equipment? How much of these are we now losing as a result of the Middle East troubles? Shall we ever set off the 2,000 million dollars worth of purchases from the United States?
I am sorry, but I have not time to develop this point further. I feel strongly about it. I should like to hear it mentioned in the winding up speech. This country must have a strong aircraft industry, not only because we are an air-minded generation; not only because we must provide aircraft, both civil and military, but also because of the great technological fall-out from producing these aircraft, because of the benefits which accrue, such as to my own part of the country, of apprenticeship schemes which are sponsored by the aircraft companies, and be cause of the advances in metallurgy, miniaturisation, electronics and control system. There are all these factors, which benefit the whole of our industry, not to mention prestige.
I see that the Minister of Technology has returned to the Chamber and before I sit down I should like to say something, about the recent developments affecting Short Bros. & Harland. I have in my constituency, as hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House know, a company which was one of the forerunners of aircraft manufacture. Its history goes back to the last century, because it was in 1898 when this company was first founded and started manufacturing balloons. It has pioneered many different forms of flight. Mention has been made of variable geometry. The first variable geomentry aircraft was produced by Short Bros. It started aircraft production in 1909—before the First World War. It produced, before the First World War, a folding-wing aircraft and, after the war, a multi-engined aircraft. It manufactured the first aircraft to land on the deck of a warship, the first torpedo carrier, and the first folding-wing aircraft. In 1919 it produced the first all-metal stressed skin aircraft.
The company is mainly known for its work between the wars on the Short Sunderland, but it has pioneered many other types of aviation, including vertical take-off. It produced the most successful missile seller for this country abroad, the Seacat, on which there is an inquiry into costs at the moment. I should like to know what the Minister of Technology is about in this respect. I asked him on Tuesday during Question Time what the result of this inquiry would be and he gave me a completely misleading and erroneous answer which I did not understand because he did not answer the question. It is there for all to see in HANSARD for Tuesday. The answer does not meet the point that I raised. This inquiry into the costs of the Seacat missile can only reflect to the detriment of the right hon. Gentleman's Department and its costing officers and of those persons in the company, of which he owns 70 per cent. of the shares and for which he also has a certain responsibility. It can only reflect damagingly on the whole of the aircraft industry and our export programme. What will the Governments of the 11 foreign navies buying the Seacat think of the suggestion that perhaps this missile has been sold at too high a price? Will they ask for part of their money back?
The Minister of Technology has announced that he intends to appoint a new Chairman. Although he was generous in his replies to Questions, I cannot understand this announcement. He has admitted that he has no replacement in mind. The present Chairman has, in the past six years, built up this company in Northern Ireland in the face of the greatest difficulties. Despite the difficulties facing our entire aircraft industry he has managed to keep together a production and design team in Belfast, and this is no small achievement.
The right hon. Gentleman himself, in reply to a question at the end of Question Time on Tuesday, referred to the order book of Short's, to the sub-contract work on the Phantom, to the co-operation with Europe, which he himself advocates on the Fokker F28 and F228, and to expansion in the sales of the Skyvan both to Australia and America. All these things were pioneered, piloted and fostered by this Chairman, who is leaving Short's with its fullest order book for years. Why is he leaving? Many hon. Gentlemen will have read the first leader in The Times today on this subject. I will not weary the House by repeating it, but I agree entirely with the sentiments there expressed. I think that this can only do a great deal of harm to morale and confidence in the company and, indeed, in the aircraft industry as a whole.
If the Government were to take shares in the aircraft industry, as they have shares in Short's, who will they find in future to take over control of companies like this? The Chairmen of nationalised industries, including the Air Corporations, over the past five or six year have a rather unfortunate history. They are replaced very quickly, and I include British Railways in this. If this is the type of irresponsible way in which the Government are to behave towards the chairmen of important industries, it can only damage the industries themselves
I should like the Minister to pay some attention in his reply to the future of this company in my constituency. It can do excellent design and production work and it is not sufficient for it simply to work on sub-contract work, valuable as that is, on planes like the Fokker aircraft and the Phantom. Our aircraft industry as a whole must have freedom to design and develop new aircraft. We could do with a little more money being put into vertical take-off and Short's have a very good claim for a share in the design and production. This is one way in which this company which is doing valuable work in Northern Ireland can help to share in an expanding and lively aircraft industry in Britain.
It springs eternal in the human breast. It flourishes without external assistance, because I have not left this Chamber today and so my desire for one or two things is becoming more acute as time passes.
The only trouble was when I discovered that I was following my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, East (Mr. McMaster) I think that we can call one another hon. Friends—whose interests I have often made my own. However, I recollected another occasion when I followed him when, because of his wonderful Irish eloquence, I was so fascinated, just as fascinated as he was, by his speech, that he forgot and I forgot that I was to follow, and so I was not called. However, he has been more responsible to-night. So flattered was I at being able to get in that I gave five minutes to the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Ridsdale) on condition that he crossed the Floor of the House to get it. He did so, so fragile is his allegiance to the Tory Party. Perhaps if I had had 10 minutes to give away, he might have waited here.
I had better stop flirting. I have so much to say that it is impossible to say it in the time available. I want quickly to run over one or two things which I would have said in praise of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, for whom I have always had deep affection and regard and to pay a compliment to his Department for going ahead with the Harrier, the Jaguar, the helicopter, the Nimrod and the Phantom. All these are worth recording to the credit of the Government, in spite of what it is hearing about itself today. I say these things particularly because I may have other slightly more critical things to say, and I shall know that I have cushioned my right hon. Friend by my opening remarks. We all recognise that stopping the AFVG project leaves a gap.
Last week, my right hon. Friend observed:
… we are authorising British firms to carry out a project study on a variable geometry combat aircraft to a modified specification.
We had a statement made by an hon. Gentleman to the effect that this was not a modified specification but was a replacement. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology will tell us if the replacement is to be a modified version, or whether it is just to be a replacement, because they cannot be the same thing. If the version is modified, it is not a replacement of an aircraft with a different specification.
My right hon. Friend went on:
Exploratory talks with potential partners will be held as soon a possible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1967; Vol. 749, c. 1825.]
If money was the root of this particular evil which led us to abandon the Anglo-
French project, why could we not have sought a modified specification with the French before breaking the project off?
One of the reasons for the very substantial research and development cost of the AFVG was the attempt to accommodate into plans which would meet our requirements certain parameters which only the French wanted. The main qualification which we have introduced into the project study now being done at Warton is to take out those expensive additional characteristics required by the French.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that helpful explanation.
I should like to turn to the civil side of this question which is of great interest to me. My right hon. Friend and the Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) both spoke of a European airbus. My right hon. Friend said that studies had been made of military requirements. What studies have been made about the requirements for a European airbus? The only guide that I have is in the studies of Shephen Wheatcroft. All Members interested in this subject will accept him as a gentleman whose word carries some weight. The airbus will carry something around 300 passengers. Mr. Wheatcroft says that potential demand in Europe in the '70s for that airbus will be six. That is the project with which we are going ahead. There is a potential demand of 23 for a 250-seater aircraft; a potential demand of 82 for a 200-seater; a potential demand of 170 for a 180-seater; and a potential demand of 143 for a 160-seater.
That is the demand in Europe. Yet we are pinning our' faith to an airbus in which six operators have shown an interest. Surely, we want to hear what greater justification than that the Government have for advancing this project, particularly since the British Aircraft Corporation is prepared to produce or at least has in mind and under study the BAC211, which fulfils the demand of practically every operator in Europe and, indeed, in most parts of the world.
The demands for aircraft with carrying capacities of 88 and 90 are well satisfied. The big gap is in aircraft with carrying capacities of about 180 or 190. This is the gap which operators all over the world—B.E.A., Sabena, the Italians, the Portuguese and the Polish—want to fill, and this is the gap which we are ignoring. We are putting our faith in an aircraft for which there is a demand from only six operators.
The hon. Gentleman need not get excited. I am keeping my eye on both clocks.
In these circumstances, and particularly in view of the support of what I am saying which has come from both sides of the House today, we do not want to buy abroad or build in conjunction with someone else an aircraft which we can produce in this country.
Having said only a part of what I might have said in other circumstances, and penalised to a certain extent by my own naturally generous nature, I make my bow and, like the star performer, retire from the stage.
I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) for giving me just five minutes to say a few words. I wanted particularly to make one point. In another place tomorrow, we are celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Stanley Baldwin. As a nephew of Stanley Baldwin by marriage, I knew what great importance he attached to quality before quantity and how much he realised that if we were to survive as a small country against even the forces of Nazi Germany we had to concentrate upon and take care of our designers—Camm, who produced the Hurricane, Mitchell, who produced the Spitfire, and de Havilland, who produced the Mosquito.
It is with that thought in mind particularly that I join in the censure Motion and support my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr), because I have a fear that, in the words of the Secretary of State himself, without the AFVG project there will be no design work for our industry.
One of the things that I cannot help but feel, therefore, in the cancellation which the Secretary of State has made of many of the projects which we of the Conservative Government brought in, is a lack of faith in our aircraft industry. Although the right hon. Gentleman may have looked at the matter from a financial point of view, my fear is that he does not realise that a Conservative Government are able to generate much more wealth than a Labour Government. A figure of 6·5 per cent. of the national product under a Conservative Government is much more than 6·5 per cent. under a Labour Government.
I am sorry, I cannot give way.
It is because of that lack of faith by the Secretary of State that I support the censure Motion, because I know how much the Royal Air Force has suffered under the administration of the present Government.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), who underlined the extent to which the Government have led the Royal Air Force very much up the garden path by, first, promising the TSR2, then withdrawing the TSR2, promising 100 F111s and then announcing that we were to have only 50. Now, are we to get any F111s is at all? What aircraft are we to get?
It is because of that lack of faith in the British aircraft industry and in Britain that I join in the censure Motion, because I realise so well what it means to the country that if we are to have a proper base to enable us to co-operate internationally with other Powers, we must have a bargaining counter. We must keep our design teams in being and, above all, as Stanley Baldwin wished more than anything else, we must concentrate on quality and not on quantity.
This has been an exceptionally wide-ranging debate. Many of the contributions to it have been interesting and valuable in their own right, although so far as they were directed precisely to the subject matter of the Motion, none of them has given any comfort to the Government. Nor is it possible that they should have done so, since the facts which the Motion records are notorious and undeniable.
In his speech, the Secretary of State for Defence spent much of his time on a history of the Anglo-French variable geometry project. I intend, in turn, to go over much of the same ground, although I shall emphasise other features and I shall include elements in the story which, for reasons perhaps intelligible, the Secretary of State found it convenient to omit. I gather that he expected me to do this, and I think that he intimated that he was looking forward to it. In that case, I can only say that I hope that he enjoys it, and I wish him, "Good appetite."
For practical purposes, the story goes back just over two years to 17th May, 1965, when the right hon. Gentleman announced to the House the Memorandum of Agreement on the variable geometry aircraft which he had made with the French Government. He then said that,
we shall have to withdraw from service during the middle and late 1970s the Buccaneer, the Lightning and the Phantom
and that the use which was foreseen for the variable geometry aircraft was to be a
replacement for some, or possibly all, of these aircraft, which will then be obsolescent.
At the same time, he mentioned that
there is no relationship between the F111A problem and the variable geometry aircraft now under consideration with the French."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th May, 1965; Vol. 712, c. 1008.]
What was that F111A problem and how had it arisen? It had arisen a little over a month earlier, when the Government announced that they had cancelled the TSR2 which had been designed as the successor to the Canberra aircraft, and that they had secured an option with the United States to purchase an unspecified number of F111 modified aircraft of which the first purchase would have to be made firm by the end of the year.
There is no doubt about the function of the Canberra aircraft. In the words of the Defence White Paper of 1966,
their primary role is nuclear strike, but they can also use conventional weapons to meet
national requirements outside the N.A.T.O. area … The squadrons declared to CENTO can undertake both nuclear and conventional operations in general and limited war … The Canberra has a radius of action up to 1,000 miles.
Such was the aircraft for which a replacement was required. That replacement was no longer envisaged as the TSR2, and the F111 problem, as the right hon. Gentleman called it, was the double question whether such a replacement was needed at all—whether the capability which at that time and still the Canberra uniquely gave would be necessary in the later 'seventies—and, secondly, whether, if so, it should be met by the purchase of the American F111 aircraft.
Those two questions were still under consideration by the Government when the year 1965 came to an end. There had as yet been no decision on the rôle—whether this particular capability would in future be requisite—nor, if so, upon the aircraft which was to supply it. Just before the end of the year, when an extension of three months of the American option was obtained, a debate in this House took place. Many possibilities were canvassed. There was discussion of a Spey/Mirage aircraft and of an extended version of the Buccaneer aircraft, but one possibility not mentioned in that debate was that this function might be fulfilled by the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. At the end of 1965, in the right hon. Gentleman's words, the Anglo-French variable geometry project still had "no relationship" with the F111A problem.
Then there took place, between the end of 1965 and 22nd February, 1966, the date of publication of the Defence Review in the White Paper of that year, a sudden and startling transformation; for in the Defence Review it was announced that a successor to the Canberra aircraft was required, and that that successor was going to be the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.
This was the celebrated declaration from which the words in the Motion before the House are taken. The White Paper said:
By the mid-1970s, we intend that the Anglo-French variable-geometry aircraft should begin to take over this"—
that is, the Canberra—
and other roles. Both operationally and industrially, this aircraft is the core of our long-term aircraft programme.
I think that at this point I should pause to refer to the most extraordinary and indeed alarming, intervention which was made by the Secretary of State for Defence earlier this afternoon in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), when he said, whether as a joke or not, that my hon. Friend should have known that the core of anything was "the central part meant to be cut out". After all allowance is made for the flamboyant temperament of the right hon. Gentleman, after all allowance is made for an incautious jest which he will long regret, what a revelation of the state of mind of a Minister that he should fling that retort about those words from his own Defence Review which are the subject of a censure on him today, which are the subject of one of the most serious blows which this country's aircraft industry, its long-term programme, has suffered; that he should choose to use those words and say that "the core is the part which is meant to be cut out". I wonder how our future potential co-operators in other countries will evaluate the attitude disclosed by the right hon. Gentleman. That was an interpretation, however, which we have only had today—
The right hon. Gentleman is now displaying, as I predicted this afternoon, textual perversion of the highest order. Surely he is aware that his hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) was making great play of the word "core"? He always arouses a good deal of frivolity in his audience, and I drew to his attention a meaning of the word of which I only became aware this week. Is the right hon. Gentleman really suggesting that the word was used in that manner, either in the White Paper or in the debate?
I am content that the words of the Secretary of State for Defence should remain upon the record.
In the Defence White Paper of 1966 it was explained that since the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft was to be the main replacement after the mid-70s for the Canberra aircraft we should need only to "bridge the gap". The arrangement which was to be made for bridging the gap was the F111A—of which, therefore, only 50 would be required—supplemented in the early 'seventies in the strike rôle by the V-bombers.
This was a completely new context in which the AFVG aircraft was suddenly placed. It was not surprising that the then Minister of Aviation, not having been let into the secret—as he was not let into so many secrets at that time by his colleagues—found himself in great difficulty in explaining what he had heard in the past and what he now learned about the functions of the AFVG. In his speech on the debate on 7th March last year, he contradicted himself hopelessly, representing the AFVG sometimes as a replacement and sometimes as a complement to the F111A.
At that time, already, the Opposition had warned the Government and the country that the Government had made the core of their long-term programme something which, as yet, had no real existence. As I said in the debate on 7th March last year:
the whole policy rests, and is admitted to rest, upon the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. … At present, this aircraft … does not exist, as someone in the aircraft industry put it to me, 'even on the back of an envelope'.
I concluded—and these are words that I can well use again tonight:
The whole thing is a structure of spoof, designed to cover up the mess into which the Government have got themselves by the cancellation of the TSR2 and the obligations that they have entered into to the United States."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, cc. 1766–7.]
Those words have been verified punctually and fully by what has happened in the last two years.
Not surprisingly, severe difficulties were soon encountered in the definition of the AFVG aircraft. Although it was alleged that by the middle of 1966 agreement upon specification—I understand that it was a very general specification—had been arrived at between this country and France, by the autumn of last year ominous news was begining to come from across the Channel. On 25th October M. Messmer indicated in the French Assembly that
Franco-British plans to build a supersonic variable geometry aircraft might have to be
shelved because of the cost. The studies we have carried out jointly show that this aircraft, though technically possible, would be very expensive.
He went on to say what the French might do
if we come to the conclusion that our financial means force us to put off its realisation.
That was in October, 1966.
Not unnaturally, anxiety was expressed in this House in the debate which followed in November. The existence of this anxiety—and here I pay tribute to the former Minister of Aviation, who always sought to be candid with the House within the limits of the very restricted information which he was allowed by his colleague, the Secretary of State for Defence—was admitted by the right hon. Gentleman, when he said, on 21st November:
the Anglo-French Variable Geometry aircraft illustrates the difficulties to which I referred"—
that is, the difficulties of international co-operation because M. Messmer had
'made it clear that certain budgetary problems made it impossible for him to agree then … for the project to proceed.'
This programme is of great importance to the French as well as to our own industry and failure to go ahead would be a grave disappointment and a blow to the hopes … of increasing Anglo-European collaboration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1966; Vol. 36, c. 969.]
All credit to him; he at any rate did not seek to disguise the risks, the uncertainties and the difficulties. It was at that time—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) has already reminded the House—that the very important statement was made by the Minister of Aviation in answer to a question of his, that
that is, the Government—
are very well advanced with contingency planning about what we should do. We would hope to make an announcement"—
presumably an announcement of what they should do—
almost immediately if it failed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1966; Vol. 737, 427.]
An hon. Member says that we have had it today. What we have today was a list which anyone might have compiled of the questions which had to be answered now and certain possible solutions in certain directions. Is this all that was meant by being "very well advanced with contingency planning about what we should do"? Is this the announcement about it which was to be made "almost immediately when it failed"?
That was the end of 1966. At the beginning of this year, the right hon. Gentleman went over and had a conference, one of many, with his opposite number, M. Messmer, and they arrived—so the right hon. Gentleman thought or believed—at an agreement. He was positively lyrical about it. In Paris, before he left, he said:
The agreement we have reached provides an assured future to the industries of both our countries …
The project was
… streets ahead of anything which is planned on the same lines in the United States
and it would be
the basis of a co-operation which would extend into the mid-70s and create the foundation for an advanced technology which can meet the American challenge.
Then he came home and, on the wireless, said:
The agreement is without qualification so far as this stage is concerned. There have been difficulties, but the difficulties which dogged the project a few weeks ago have disappeared, I think for good.
When he came to the House the following day, he was just as confident and asserted:
… this agreement lays the basis for the long-term future of the British and French aircraft industries in co-operation with one another. I hope that, whatever difficulties we might have had about this matter in the past, we can now agree that the industry has a stable programme of military aircraft carrying it through the 'seventies."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th January, 1967; Vol. 739, c. 407.]
What he said was echoed by his colleagues. The Minister of State, Ministry of Technology, responsible for aviation, asserted on 1st February:
… The main agreement has been reached."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1967; Vol. 740, c. 483.]
Again, on 28th February, he said:
… There is no doubt in our minds that this agreement is going through—we have had that assurance from the French—providing that all these preliminary tests are successful.
The reference to "tests" was very right and proper and necessary; but then, his hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was so unkind as to ask him:
Could the Minister shed any light on what is meant in the French Press by the phrase 'breaking the financial barrier in November 1967'?".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 236.]
That was indeed an important question, for the information which was coming from France was entirely different from the language being used in this country.
I accused the right hon. Gentleman, perhaps being over-generous to him, of
… having been carried away by his own enthusiasm and … unintentionally having given a wholly misleading impression of the status of this project and its firmness.
I pointed out that the French themselves, officially, had said:
… the Ministers fixed a time-table in which the principal hurdle, that is to say, the financial barrier, is situated at the end of 1967'."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 132.]
Such was the project of which the right hon. Gentleman was telling the House and the country that it was a firm agreement which they knew would go through. Yet this was a project on which he had agreed, or so the French believed, that they would take a financial decision, would surmount or not surmount the financial barrier, would take the budgetary decisions, right at the end of the year.
As I pointed out to the House, the French were entirely uncommitted.
In the course of December, 1967"—
again I quote the French Minister of Information—
one may decide whether or not—on puisse décider ou non—to start wtth the prototype in the following year".
I remember how amusing it was thought when I drew attention to this statement of the French. Incidentally, I must say, in view of one or two words which have been uttered in this debate, that the French have acted, so far as I can tell, so far as the published evidence goes, with good faith, candour and openness throughout the whole affair.
But very soon the evidence grew that there was trouble. Costs were rising. We began to read about it in the Press. In April we read:
At yesterday's meeting it became clear that Britain and France have still been unable to agree on joint specifications for the aircraft".
Again I repeated the warning that there was still no substance whatever in this aircraft. I told the right hon. Gentleman on 1st May:
… all the key decisions are evidently yet to be taken".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1967; Vol. 745, c. 100.]
This was two years after the original agreement and 15 months after this alleged aircraft has been made the core of our long-term aircraft programme. But the Ministers continued to bluff. For instance, the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Stonehouse) referred on the same day to
… the AFVG programme, which we are confident will be a great success".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1967; Vol. 745, c. 219.]
There was not much longer to run. At a further meeting in May the Ministers at last agreed on specifications, on cost and on the industrial arrangements between the two countries. But, as the Secretary of State said, this was ad referendum to the two Governments. It was merely an agreement between the Ministers. It was an agreement in vacuo as well as ad referendum; for the writing was already on the wall.
There followed in June that last, sordid, unworthy episode of prevarication in which needlessly, purposelessly, right to the last, the right hon. Gentleman tried to bluff it out. He told us today that he had learned from the French Embassy in London that the French Minister of Defence was writing to him about the financial difficulties which had arisen over the aircraft. Yet, in the House, when my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) challenged him and asked:
Is the right hon. Gentleman telling us that he has not received from M. Messmer a letter substantially saying what has been reported in the press
—which was exactly that—he replied:
I have received no communication from M. Messmer to the effect which the hon. Member suggests. …
might be on the way". [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June 1967; Vol. 748, c. 1737.]
I do not know that disingenuousness could be carried much
further. It was certainly more than disingenuous when, the following week, I asked him if he "was aware of the purport of that letter when he answered Questions in the House" the previous week, and his answer was:
of course, no, Sir."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th June 1967; Vol. 749, c. 88–9.]
That is what the right hon. Gentleman calls "exactitude". I will leave that episode, also, confidently to the judgment of the House.
By that time the finale was only a few days off and on 5th July the end of the story came. The right hon. Gentleman then presented himself in a different guise. The confident assertor of the firm agreemmt—the certain basis of long-term collaboration—who had made this project the core of the long-term aircraft programme of this country, appeared as an injured innocent.
If I have failed"—
he told us—
that is riot my fault."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th, July, 1967; Vol. 749, c. 1826.]
It was not his fault, he told us—in spite of all that my hon. Friends had told him in the House, in spite of what hail been said outside, in spite of the fact that there literally had been no assurance whatever of this project from the beginning but he had rushed ahead and founded the major structure of our air defence forces in the 'seventies on that assumption. All that, he said, was not his fault.
What we charge the right hon. Gentleman with doing is having deliberately and knowingly made a project which he was aware had no assurance the core and basis of our long-term aircraft programme and, having done so, of having publicly and repeatedly asserted to the very last that he did have such assurance.
Such is the narrative of the events of the past two years—a story discreditable to the Government as a whole but discreditable, above all, to the Secretary of State, personally. The mere rehearsal of these events constitutes an indictment of the right hon. Gentleman and of his conduct in his office.
The Secretary of State has always shown considerable impatience at the care and persistence with which I have followed and compared his various, not to say varying, statements as the months have gone by. I do not wonder. It is only natural that somebody who attaches so little importance to accuracy as the right hon. Gentleman does, should feel discomfort, not to say irritation, at being closely observed. On one recent occasion he went so far as to describe my careful attention to his words and activities as "nit-picking". Perhaps I might be forgiven if I say, in the light of what has happened: Some picking! Some nit!
I do not doubt that, at the end of this debate, a sufficient number of the party opposite will be found to approve in the Lobby what no one can seriously justify or defend. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be regarding the numerical count in the Lobby as the justification for his past course of conduct.
I dare say that for the next half hour or so the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Technology, who has the thankless task of covering up for the Secretary of State, will find something to say about earlier history or the Opposition or French politics, about anything and everything but what concerns the offence of the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman follows, and I hope that he will not, the pattern set by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister we may expect in the last minute or two before the Division some irrelevant charge or innuendo.
But whatever he says, and whatever happens in the Division Lobbies, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Defence will leave this Chamber tonight a discredited man, discredited not so much because of the collapse and failure of his policy—though for failure, too, we have to bear responsibility in this House—but discredited because he is proved to have gambled wilfully, persistently, brazenly with the highest interests of this country—gambled, and lost.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) began his speech rather plaintively, in that he referred to a debate which he thought had ranged rather more widely than the terms of the Motion he had tabled. The reason for that is very easy to understand. It is that most hon. Members who have contributed to the debate, and it has been a very interesting and important debate, have thought it right, in the circumstances in which we find ourselves, to make some reference—some reference —to the problems created by the withdrawal of the French from the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft project. The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I intended to say anything damaging in the last few minutes of my speech: I assure him that the most damaging thing that could be said about the party opposite has been what he and his right hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) have failed to say.
Nobody denies that this is a debate of the utmost importance to our national defence and to the British aircraft industry but, when everything has been said and done, what has actually happened? Two years ago, the British and French Governments decided to collaborate on a sophisticated combat aircraft designed to meet their joint needs in the 'seventies and 'eighties. What has happened is that the French Government, and we much regret it, have withdrawn from the project. To listen to the speeches made from the other side, one would really think that my right hon. Friend had made a statement on 5th July announcing that we had withdrawn from the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft.
During a debate of this kind, one would have expected that some of the spokesmen for defence on the other side would have devoted themselves, as several hon. Members did, a little more constructively to the problems that have been thrown up by the French withdrawal. But instead of this, and this was entirely predictable from the beginning, the right hon. Members for Mitcham and Wolverhampton, South-West have chosen to make this debate a chance to attack my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.
I must say that, watching the development of this argument over the last few months, it has been very evident to me —and even more evident tonight—[Interruption.]—that members of the party opposite were hoping that this project would be cancelled so that they could mount an attack—[Interruption.]—upon my right hon. Friend—
It is very kind of you, Mr. Speaker, to protect me, but I am perfectly happy to put my points. If hon. Members do not want to listen, that is up to them. From the very beginning, for the last two years, the party opposite have seen the AFVG as a weapon principally directed against my right hon. Friend. Of all the people to wring their hands over a cancellation of an aircraft project members of the party opposite are the least qualified to do so.
I do not want to go back, and certainly would not otherwise have gone back over the history of recent years but for the very long list of aircraft cancellations by the party opposite. I do not want to refer to each project individually; I would rather attach the projects to the hon. and right hon. Members responsible for cancelling them. The right hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) cancelled two projects at a cost of £27 million. Mr. Peter Thorneycroft cancelled four projects at a cost of £18·4 million. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), on my count, cut eight projects at a cost of £109 million. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition cut 10 projects but only at a cost of £19·5 million. There could have been no combination of enemy forces in the world since the war who could have inflicted such damage on the industry as the party opposite.
Will the right hon. Gentleman cast his mind back to a year or so previously—I cannot remember whether he was in the House then—when the Swift fighter had to be cancelled at a cost of £35 million?
The right hon. Gentleman had better make up his mind. If his criticism is of the cancellation of a project he must take full responsibility, as he did, for eight projects at a cost of £109 million which he cancelled.
The point I am making is on the reference to the core of the aircraft programme, which was a fairly obvious point for the right hon. Gentleman to pick up, but the aircraft cancellations by his colleagues would have met the cost of the world's air forces for a generation.
It was not the core that was cancelled, it was the whole apple.
The right hon. Gentleman then talked about the AFVG as a "structure of spoof"—a very good phrase. But Mr. Thorneycroft spoke very favourably about the idea of an Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft and, as my right hon. Friend said, in his more euphoric moments took credit for this, in which case the architect of the structure of spoof again was to be found on the benches opposite.
The trouble with hon. Members opposite is that they try to persuade the electorate and the public to think that history began on 14th October, 1964, but it did not. Anyone who knows about the problem, which is a very difficult one, of mounting national or international projects knows that the risk of cancellation for one reason or another, for good or bad reasons, is part of the problem which Governments face when they try to meet the need with their own aircraft.
If the hon. Member will allow me, I think I had better continue my argument. I listened very intensely to what the right hon. Gentleman said in his criticism of our placing—I forget whether it was all our eggs in the international basket or one egg in an international basket—a very colourful phrase. His own solution was a British VG—one egg—for which he hoped that there would be international support.
If, instead of doing what we did, we had taken the right hon. Gentleman's advice and had made a British VG and then sought international collaboration, could that have been done as well as the AFVG? Of course it could not. The design capability was not there. Therefore, the problem the right hon. Gentleman has to face is that, in terms of cost and design capability, there is only the possibility of one.
He says, "If we could bring others in, we would not allow them to cancel". His great idea of international collaboration is the cancel-proof clause in the contract. Supposing these projects which I have read out-30 of them—had been done by international arrangement under the terms that the right hon. Gentleman himself laid down—that no one could cancel—every one of the 30 projects would have had to go on, whether his own colleagues wanted them, or the French, or the Germans, or the Americans, wanted them to go on or not. If the right hon. Gentleman reflects, he will admit that he produced a most extraordinary doctrine that into international collaboration there should be introduced a specific, statutory, contractual bar to cancellation, although he knows as well as anyone knows that a project may well have, for some reason or another, budgetary or technical, to be cancelled at some stage. What he really said was that international collaboration was not a part of his thinking.
One cannot write into an international contract a provision which is capable of being upheld—[Interruption.]—this can be done on one condition only—if one is prepared to accept unlimited escalation. Then it can be done. If the economics are thrown out, if we say, "Whatever the cost of the aircraft, the project will continue", then it can be said, as the right hon. Gentleman says, that it can be done. Supposing that we had taken the advice of the right hon. Member for Mitcham, supposing we had had a British VG and had tried, as he very fairly said, to attract other countries to come in and do a part—a wing, an engine, or whatever it happened to be—and supposing they then wished to cancel, would his position have been any different from ours, faced with the problem that faces the House tonight? The right hon. Gentleman has not devoted himself very seriously to the problems that are associated with this particular difficulty.
I want to draw attention to four questions which the Tory Party ought to have tried to answer in the course of the debate. First, in its opinion was it right for us to have based our future aircraft programme on collaboration with the French? This is the question the Tories did not answer. The right hon. Gentleman, in fairness, said that it was a structure of spoof, but he did not say whether, given that as one possibility, we should have based everything on this or tried to run two projects in parallel.
If we had tried to run two projects in parallel, has there been any calculation by the Tories of what the cost would have been? Or indeed, even more important than that, of what the necessity would have been for running two projects of a similar kind side by side? The Leader of the Opposition, who made a speech not long ago about economic policy, laid great emphasis upon restriction and upon the necessity for there to be a close check upon public expenditure. I am sure that he meant it. He ought to make the speeches internally first to his own colleagues, because it is no good his making speeches about the sort of control over public expenditure which he would exercise, were he given the opportunity, when his colleagues are advocating—it has come out again and again in the course of the debate—that we should undertake projects for which there is no known operational need and which it would have been very expensive indeed for us to have done.
The next point with which the right hon. Gentleman might have dealt was whether we should have included a provision for cancellation in this project. Allowing that had we gone ahead with a British VG by ourselves, we should have retained the right, as with all our projects, to cancel, would he not have extended this to an international project?
Finally—and this is a point which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) and others raised—is it seriously argued in the context of contingency planning, that while we were seeking, as we were with real enthusiasm, to bring the French along with the AFVG, we should simultaneously have been conducting these other negotiations, in order to maintain in play the possibility of an Anglo-German, or Anglo-American, or Anglo-European aircraft in addition? If, simultaneously, in addition to what my right hon. Friend was doing in his talks with M. Messmer and the talks that were going on over a very long time to establish the AFVG, we had been negotiating with other possible partners, when the AFVG was withdrawn, the Conservative Party would then have said, "You were never serious about your co-operation with the French, because all the time you were secretly negotiating to see whether you could agree on a project with the Germans and the Americans".
I am coming to the question of contingency planning in a moment. Contingency planning is totally different from keeping a number of projects going at the same time so that if we were to run into difficulties we could say, "Happily, we have another arrangement at an exactly equal stage of development with some other partner." Any suggestion that that is the sensible course to have followed is ludicrous.
What worried me most about the Conservative Party tonight, and particularly the two Front Bench spokesmen, was that the case for international collaboration was never put by them to the House. It is not based, in my opinion at any rate, upon the need for international collaboration for technical reasons. The truth is that there are sufficient designers of sufficient quality in the British aircraft industry—and I said this at the S.B.A.C. dinner—to produce almost any aircraft, however complex. The problem in selling an aircraft or in producing an aircraft today is to find a wide enough market for it.
A point which struck me as positively obsolescent about the arguments from the Conservative Party, and the argument of Julian Amery in today's Daily Telegraph, was that they were still talking about aircraft as if the problem was how to make a swing-wing, or whatever the aircraft happened to be, instead of the problem of how to create an aircraft which meets a need and thus spread the high cost of research and development over the whole market. The term "market" in a commercial sense means the airlines. "Market" in the military sense means the operational requirements of countries which might acquire the aircraft.
The important point about the AFVG, a s about the Jaguar and helicopters, to which, if I have time, I shall make reference—and it applies to the airbus and one or two other projects, too—is that the Government have tried to start with the operational requirements of the market and have built collaboration upon that. To say that all one has to do is to produce one's own aircraft—as Julian Amery said today, even if it means some sacrifice of current consumption, because we must have the industry—is to miss the whole nature of the problem which confronts us.
The debate which we should have devoted to the question of the next stage has very largely been by-passed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Get on with it."] I am coming to it. The trouble is that very little has been said about the next stage, and I had to deal with the quite monstrous things which had been said about my right hon. Friend and to draw attention to the fact that nothing constructive had come from the Conservative Party in the course of the debate.
The choice which has to be made is not a choice of our making. We did not want the situation to arise as it has arisen. In opening the debate today, my right hon. Friend said that the operational requirement will have to be, and will be, subjected to the most stringent re-examination in the light of the further evolution of our defence policy outside Europe. My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) asked about that, and my right hon. Friend dealt with it. It will have to be compared with the operational requirements for combat aircraft in the European theatre.
Britain will not be alone in reexamining its aircraft needs in the next decade. In so far as we can get together on a common aircraft programme policy for Western Europe, to that extent we shall identify a market and the specifications, and this will help us to reach the right decision. I certainly differentiate the approaches from the two sides of the House, on the basis that we are beginning with the requirement, the specification and the market and are not beginning with the old-fashioned idea that one has only to produce an aircraft, regardless of cost, and somehow one has met the nation's defence needs. My right hon. Friend dealt with the argument very powerfully, for when we came into office in October, 1964, despite the immense expenditure on aircraft, many of which were cancelled, the Royal Air Force was not equipped with the aircraft which it needed for the job which it had to do at that time.
I come to the question of contingency planning. A great deal has been made of this, and the Answer which my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs gave about contingency planning has been mentioned. Contingency planning involves the study—
I am dealing with the point which the hon. and gallant Member made. If he does not like the answer, he can try again.
What must be involved in contingency planning is to identify the alternatives to which one may have to turn in the event of that contingency arising. This work in identifying the alternatives had, of course, been well advanced. But more important even than that was to make arrangements to see that if anything went wrong with the AFVG, the British design staff were safeguarded. The essential element of the contingency planning was announced immediately—not even almost immediately, for it was announced in the statement which my right hon. Friend made on 5th July. He made it quite clear that the British design capability for advanced combat aircraft at Warton, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Ronald Atkins) referred, would be safeguarded while the contingency alternatives were examined.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows better than anyone that it takes about 10 years to produce an aircraft and it is nonsense to suppose that we could have produced one in three years. My right hon. Friend ordered the P1127 which had not been ordered by the Conservative Party, and he ordered the Nimrod—the maritime reconnaissance Comet—which had not been ordered by them. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at the figures he will see that Government purchases in the aircraft industry last year were at a very high figure. I do not know whether it was an all-time record but I should not be surprised to find that it was.
The point which I want to make is that in terms of contingency planning the decision to safeguard the Warton design team, the study of alternatives and the fact that the modified design studies now taking place had already been prepared, as my right hon. Friend said, on the basis of concentrating upon our own requirements, and the fact that we had already arranged that the alternative study now in progress could be based upon the existing Rolls Royce engine, either the RB153 or the RB172, constituted a very advanced piece of contingency planning which fully justified what my right hon. Friend said last November.
It is perfectly true that if we were to decide to go on with another project, then it is a matter of identifying what is the best possible project to have. A number of alternatives have been discussed and I do not want to go into them in any great detail. There is the possibility of a co-operative venture with the United States, to which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian referred—the swing-wing Phantom. It has been discussed in the papers, but to the best of my knowledge has had no support from the American Government.
Another possibility, and these have all been widely discussed by informed opinion, is that of some alternative European collaborative effort.
Then there are those who have advocated that there should be an all-British variable geometry aircraft. This appears to be the solution which the party opopsite think right.
I want to emphasise that the full capability at Warton is being preserved while we evaluate in depth the alternatives and reach the decision that has to be reached. These do have very serious industrial implications. It is absolute nonsense, and no one knows this better than hon. Gentlemen who work in the aircraft industry, to say that the disappearance of the AFVG means the end of the aircraft industry. If there is one group that has done consistent damage to the aircraft industry in the last three years, it is those hon. Gentlemen opposite who have chosen to speak with such pessimism and gloom in order to secure some minor success in the House of Commons. They have really convinced many of our customers abroad that there is a Government in power who are trying to damage the aircraft industry. The prophets of gloom on the other side have far more upon their consciences than we have.
Many wider questions were raised, and I will not go into them all. I do not have the time to say more than a few concluding words. It is curious that in the course of the debate upon a particular project, which admittedly is an international project, from which one partner has withdrawn, hardly any reference should have been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West or his colleagues to other international projects which are going on very well.
There has been hardly any reference to the Jaguar, which is going very well. It is likely to be on time and the contracts on Phase I development have been let. Contracts for Phase II are well advanced. Authority to sign was arrived at on 29th June when my right hon. Friend met the French Minister. The production stage is due for launching this year, and the work and the costs are to be shared on a 50-50 basis. In addition there is the possibility of bringing the Germans in. There has been no reference to this. One would think that one cancellation constituted a complete end—[Interruption.]—to international collaboration.
Take the example of the helicopters. This is a package deal which stands on its own and which meets our needs and those of the French. Very great progress is being made.
If one looks at the European airbus, to which reference has been made, it will be seen that we are making as good progress as can be expected at this stage in the project. We have made clear that a European engine, the RB207 must be incorporated in it. The orders by this Government for the Harrier; the establishment of the Nimrod, the authorisation
The truth is that the aircraft industry has a secure future in so far as it can meet the growing needs of the world, military and civil, for aircraft. It is to add insult to injury for the party opposite, who did so much to damage this industry, to pay us the insult of supposing that our memories are as short as they would like us to believe.
|Division No. 456.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Currie, C. B. H.||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Astor, John||Dance, James||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Holland, Philip|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Hordern, Peter|
|Balniel, Lord||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hornby, Richard|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Doughty, Charles||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Batsford, Brian||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hunt, John|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Drayson, G. B.||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bell, Ronald||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Eden, Sir John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)||Errington, Sir Eric||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Eyre, Reginald||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Biffen, John||Farr, John||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Nigel||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jopling, Michael|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fortescue, Tim||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Baker, Peter||Foster, Sir John||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Body, Richard||Fraser,Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Kimball, Marcus|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Gibson-Watt, David||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Braine, Bernard||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Brewis, John||Glover, Sir Douglas||Kitson, Timothy|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Glyn, Sir Richard||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Goodhart, Philip||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Goodhew, Victor||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Bryan, Paul||Gower, Raymond||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M)||Grant, Anthony||Lloyd,Rt.Hn. Geoffrey(Sui'nC'dfield)|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Gresham Cooke, R.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Burden, F. A.||Grieve, Percy||Loveys, W. H.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gurden, Harold||Mac Arthur, Ian|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||MacLeod, Rt. Hn. Iain|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)||McMaster, Stanley|
|Clark, Henry||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)|
|Clegg, Walter||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maddan, Martin|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Cordle, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Marten, Neil|
|Costain, A. P.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Maude, Angus|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hastings, Stephen||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Hawkins, Paul||Mawby, Ray|
|Crouch, David||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Heseltine, Michael||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Prior, J. M. L.||Teeling, Sir William|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Pym, Francis||Temple, John M.|
|Monro, Hector||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Tilney, John|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Murton, Oscar||Ridsdale, Julian||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Robson Brown, Sir William||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Neave, Airey||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wall, Patrick|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Walters, Dennis|
|Noble, Rt. Hn, Michael||Royle, Anthony||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Nott, John||Russell, Sir Ronald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Onslow, Cranley||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Webster, David|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Scott, Nicholas||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Sharpies, Richard||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Sinclair, Sir George||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Smith, John||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Peel, John||Stainton, Keith||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Percival, Ian||Stodart, Anthony||Worsley, Marcus|
|Peyton, John||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)||Wright, Esmond|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Summers, Sir Spencer||Wylie, N. R.|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Tapsell, Peter||Younger, Hn. George|
|Pounder, Ration||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Mr. Jasper More.|
|Abse, Leo||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ginsburg, David|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crawshaw, Richard||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C|
|Alldritt, Walter||Cronin, John||Gourlay, Harry|
|Anderson, Donald||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Archer, Peter||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Gregory, Arnold|
|Ashley, Jack||Dalyell, Tam||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davidson, James(Aberdeenshire, W.)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Baxter, William||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hamling, William|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hannan, William|
|Bence, Cyril||Dell, Edmund||Harper, Joseph|
|Bonn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dempsey, James||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Dewar, Donald||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Bessell, Peter||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Haseldine, Norman|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Dickens, James||Hattersley, Roy|
|Binns, John||Dobson, Ray||Hazell, Bert|
|Bishop, E. S.||Doig, Peter||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Blackburn, F.||Donnelly, Desmond||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Driberg, Tom||Henig, Stanley|
|Boardman, H.||Dunn, James A.||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Booth, Albert||Dunnett, Jack||Hilton, W. S.|
|Boston, Terence||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hooley, Frank|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Eadie, Alex||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Boyden, James||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Bradley, Tom||Ellis, John||Hoy, James|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||English, Michael||Huckfield, L.|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ennals, David||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Ensor, David||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Brown,Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Faulds, Andrew||Hunter, Adam|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fernyhough, E.||Hynd, John|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Finch, Harold||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Buchan, Norman||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)|
|Cant, R. B.||Ford, Ben||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Forrester, John||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fowler, Gerry||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Chapman, Donald||Freeson, Reginald||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Coe, Denis||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Coleman, Donald||Gardner, Tony||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Garrett, W. E.||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Judd, Frank||Moyle, Roland||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tlc-u-Tyne)|
|Kelley, Richard||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Short, Mrs. Renee(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Murray, Albert||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Neal, Harold||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Newens, Stan||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Lawson, George||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Sheffington, Arthur|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Noel-Baker, Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Ledger, Ron||Norwood, Christopher||Small, William|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Oakes, Gordon||Snow, Julian|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Ogden, Eric||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Lee, John (Reading)||O'Malley, Brian||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Oram, Albert E.||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Orbach, Maurice||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Orme, Stanley||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Oswald, Thomas||Swain, Thomas|
|Lipton, Marcus||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Taverne, Dick|
|Loughlin, Charles||Padley, Walter||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Luard, Evan||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lubbock, Eric||Paget, R. T.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Palmer, Arthur||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Tinn, James|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Pardoe, John||Tomney, Frank|
|McBride, Neil||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Tuck, Raphael|
|McCann, John||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Urwin, T. W.|
|MacColl, James||Pavitt, Laurence||Varley, Eric G.|
|MacDermot, Niall||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|McGuire, Michael||Pentland, Norman||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Perry, Ernest C. (Battersea, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Weitzman, David|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, c.)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wellbeloved, James|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Price, William (Rugby)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Probert, Arthur||Whitaker, Ben|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Rankin, John||Whitlock, William|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rees, Merlyn||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mapp, Charles||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Marquand, David||Richard, Ivor||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Roberta, Albert (Normanton)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Mason, Roy||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Maxwell, Robert||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Robinson,Rt.Hn.Kenneth(St.p'c'as)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mellish, Robert||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Roebuck, Roy||Winnick, David|
|Millan, Bruce||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rose, Paul||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Ross, Rt. Hn, William||Woof, Robert|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Moonman, Eric||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Yates, Victor|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Ryan, John|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenehawe)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openahaw)||Sheldon, Robert||Mr. W. Howie and|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Mr. Ioan L. Evans.|