Is it not essential that the first British fighter for 30 years should fly within its full flight envelope at Farnborough this year in order to maintain the technical lead that we have over the French counterpart, which will fly? Will he join me in urging all those involved in the industrial dispute at British Aerospace to resolve their difficulties as a matter of urgency and get back to making aeroplanes that can beat the competition?
I was with my hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence at the impressive roll-out of the experimental aircraft project in April. The industrial dispute at British Aerospace at Warton is sad and disappointing, and one wishes that it will be speedily resolved. It is very much the intention of British Aerospace, and our hope, that the EAP will fly at Farnborough. My understanding is that, where possible, work on the programme has been continuing.
Does my hon. Friend agree that a settlement of the industrial dispute would be helpful not only in connection with the experimental aircraft programme but in the context of our order for Tornados for Saudi Arabia and the efforts that the Government and British Aerospace are making to secure further sales for that aircraft?
My right hon. Friend is right. I remember that those workers who are now on strike were, some months ago, desperately concerned about their jobs and possible redundancies at Warton, but then we had the extremely successful aerospace package sale to Saudi Arabia. Sadly, we have now moved into an industrial dispute. We all hope that it will soon be resolved.
The Minister mentioned the sale to Saudi Arabia. Can he confirm reports that the Saudis are seeking to renegotiate that deal because British Aerospace is being paid in oil which, as we know, is a depreciating currency? Is that agreement under review? Why did the Government enter into an arrangement for payment in such a depreciating currency as oil?
In the context of the Rolls-Royce contribution to this project, will my hon. Friend take the opportunity to impress upon those trade unionists who are trying to poor mouth the achievements of Rolls-Royce to date how much Rolls-Royce has contributed to this project and, in doing so, has contributed to the growth and future prosperity of Rolls-Royce?