V/STOL Aircraft

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 1972.

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Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice 12:00 am, 30th November 1972

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future employment of the vertical short take-off and landing aircraft in the Fleet and, in particular, in the new command through-deck cruisers.

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I have nothing to add to the reply given by my right hon. Friend to my hon. Friend on 19th October.—[Vol. 843, c. 436–437.]

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

Is my hon. Friend aware that this question has been asked for five years and has received the same reply? These aircraft—the Harrier and the prototype Kestrel—have been available for eight years. The United States has completed trials in the last two years. Why cannot the Ministry make up its mind?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I am certainly aware that my hon. Friend has asked me this question every month for the last 18 months. The United States Marines wanted the aircraft for a purpose different from that for which the Navy would require it. A project definition study has been started, and will take some months to complete. I cannot be more precise than that now.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

The Question refers not to "a through-deck cruiser" but to "through-deck cruisers". Does this mean that we are to have more than one, at over £60 million apiece?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

Our plan is that the first announcement of the ordering of a cruiser will come at the beginning of next year.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , West Lothian

Answer the question.

Photo of Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles Rear-Admiral Morgan Morgan-Giles , Winchester

Will my hon. Friend explain to his new colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy, and ask him to bring a sense of history to his appointment, which we welcome, and recall that the first duty of the Royal Navy throughout the centuries has been to protect our trade, and that it cannot be done other than by endemic ship-borne aircraft?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy does not need urgings from me in that respect.

Photo of Sir John Morris Sir John Morris , Aberavon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that questions have been asked from time to time on this issue? When will he be in a position to make an announcement in order to reassure his hon. Friends? Will he be able to do so in the next Defence White Paper? Will he at the same time give a clear indication of the number of cruisers he has in mind to build, and also the rate of ordering? Will he make the position abundantly clear?

Photo of Mr Ian Gilmour Mr Ian Gilmour , Norfolk Central

We certainly wish to make matters clear as soon as possible. My noble Friend the Secretary of State hopes to be able to make an announce- ment in the Defence Estimates, but I cannot give any guarantee.

Photo of Mr Patrick Wall Mr Patrick Wall , Haltemprice

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