Because it is partly in my constituency. It is therefore understandable.
Before the Opposition spokesman gets overexcited, will my hon. Friend say whether the delays, which are already excessive, are due more to technical complications or to the price that is being offered? Will there be an early end to this delay? It has gone on long enough and there are considerable anxieties among defence contractors.
I appreciate what my hon. Friend says about delay. The decision is taking longer than I would have liked. My hon. Friend will appreciate that the choice is difficult. It involves a key element in a very important project. It is most important that all matters, including important technical and cost and contractual aspects, are fully covered and agreed by the four participating nations.
My hon. Friend may be aware that the delays on the radar decision have given rise to some reports from West Germany that the whole nature of the EFA project may be reconsidered. Can he assure the many thousands of aircraft workers in my constituency, whose futures are tied up in this project, that the Government are 100 per cent. committed to it, and will do all that they can to maintain the commitment of the other partner nations to its early conclusion?
I assure my hon. Friend that we and all the other participating nations are committed to the project. In 1986, all four nations signed a general memorandum of understanding, and a further memorandum on the development of the aircraft was signed as recently as November last year. That demonstrates the participating nations' commitment to the project.
The Minister's answer that a decision will be made as soon as possible, but not as soon as he would like, does not comfort us at all. He said on 10 November 1987 that he expected a decision to be made in "early spring next year"—early 1988. It is now summer 1989. What has happened? Is this yet another example of the Government's mismanagement of the procurement industry? Will we now have another highly sophisticated, extremely expensive aeroplane flying round with cement in its nose?
The hon. Gentleman has a vivid imagination when it comes to identifying what he regards as mistaken procurement decisions. I hope that he understands the importance of EFA radar and the complexity of very high-performance radar. As I said, the decision has taken longer than I hoped, but he will agree that it is very important that we take the right decision in the right way.
Will my hon. Friend remind our German partners that unless a decision is reached, preferably unanimously, as soon as possible, the export potential of this aeroplane could be greatly prejudiced? It is in their long-term commercial and operational interests to fall into line with the Italian, Spanish and British partners on the project.
All the participating nations will be conscious of the points that my hon. Friend rightly makes. This important aircraft has export potential, although that is a long way down the line. The most important thing is to reach the right decision on the radar and to continue the project in the right way.