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My hon. Friend makes the point clearly. We have made it clear that there will be some changes in defence and some reductions in defence expenditure. I have set out before the House—the Government cannot be accused of not telling the country—that those changes will involve savings of about 6 per cent. in real terms. Our proposal is for smaller but better forces which are better equipped.
My statement is of enormous importance, as it will ensure that our future fighter aircraft have the capacity to defend themselves against the modern equipment that they may face. Soviet equipment, which is now much more widely available on the world market, has a sophistication and a capability which pose a real threat. Were we not to proceed in this way, our pilots could be at a severe disadvantage. Hon. Members know that that is true.
My announcement is important to our defence and it is a proper reward to many who work in the industry and for their skills. I mentioned the figure of 7,000 which the prime contractor has estimated will be the number of people involved in one way or another in the contracts. I also referred to the figure of £570 million—the House can draw its own conclusions about that—which will be spent over the next 10 years. The weapon will come into service first in 1998–99. It is a very important project indeed.