Multi-Rôle Combat Aircraft

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3 December 1969.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking 12:00, 3 December 1969

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now publish in the OFFICIAL REPORT the figures relating to estimated costs of the multi-rôle combat aircraft which he gave to the Press non-attributably at the briefing held in his office on the afternoon of 14th May, 1969.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to be in a position to give the estimated research, development and production costs of the multi-role combat aircraft.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

It is not the normal practice to publish cost estimates of this nature.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

In that case, why did the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend give this information to a large number of journalists at the meeting to which I referred? Is it not scandalous that the House should be insulted in this way by being denied information by what is plainly an abuse of the non-attributable procedure and the disgraceful further extension of the misleading of the House by the Secretary of State for Defence?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

The hon. Gentleman is responsible for his own word "misleading" and the other matters to which he referred. He carries the full responsibility for that. I will not be drawn into discussing the credibility of Press statements or estimates. This is a matter that has been canvassed at length before.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness

Is it not entirely unreasonable, in view of the way previous military aircraft estimates have rocketed, that the House should be asked to approve a continuation of this project without any estimate of what costs will be involved to the nation?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

As my right hon. Friend has explained to the House very fully, there are a number of distinct stages to the project, which will be looked at in turn to ensure that we have full and adequate control of the project. The number of phases that the project has been divided into will ensure this.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Will the Minister understand that there is grave concern about the matter? Why should Parliament not be allowed to have the figures which the Secretary of State has given to the Press?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

I cannot give figures for obvious reasons. There are security and contractual reasons, and the interests of at least two other Governments are involved. In any case, it would be very misleading to give figures at this stage of the project, when project definition is still in progress. I can give an assurance that I will certainly keep the House in mind, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will give it the maximum possible amount of information at the appropriate stages.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the wholly unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I intend to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether plans for the development of the multi-role combat aircraft are going ahead as scheduled.

Photo of Mr Ian Orr-Ewing Mr Ian Orr-Ewing , Hendon North

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are strong indications that the German Government are likely to place a lot of contracts for avionic equipment with United States companies and that this is a European aircraft which should be developed largely with European equipment?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

I would hope very much that this aeroplane remains a European one. I take account of the hon. Member's remarks. As he knows, avionics and that part of the development of aircraft are slower to develop, but I am assured that there would be no difficulty in British firms getting their fair share. In fact, the greater part of the avionics will be a national fit.

Photo of Mr Frederick Corfield Mr Frederick Corfield , Gloucestershire South

It is all very fine for the hon. Gentleman to say that he will take account of this, but what is he going to do about it? Over and over again we are losing out on design leadership, or if we get it in the engines we lose it on the avionics.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

We are part and parcel of every development of this very important aircraft. If the hon. Member looks at the history of the part we have played and the success we have had, in particular with the engines, he will see that we have no cause to be disappointed in any way.

Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Walthamstow East

asked the Secretary of State for Defence, to what extent agreement with the Governments of Western Germany and Italy for the joint development and production of the multi-rôle combat aircraft preserves to Her Majesty's Government control over costs and the right to introduce modifications.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) on 25th June and to the reply given to the hon. Member for Bebington (Mr. Brooks) by the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology on 8th July.—[Vol. 785, c. 1504: Vol. 786, c. 228–9.]

Photo of Mr Michael McNair-Wilson Mr Michael McNair-Wilson , Walthamstow East

Can the hon. Gentleman say whether the Government have decided a ceiling on the contribution that they are prepared to make to the project and, if so, what it is?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Hexham

Has the hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the anxieties expressed by the editor of "Jane's Fighting Aircraft"? Can he assure the House that, when developed, the M.R.C.A. will be up to the specifications and standard performance of the TSR2?

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Defence Equipment)

I was not aware of the anxiety of the editor of "Jane's". I assure the hon. Gentleman that this aircraft will meet the needs of the British forces.