Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 23rd May 1995.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine President of the Board of Trade 4:22 pm, 23rd May 1995

That is perfectly right. The division merely reveals that the MMC report does not represent an emphatic, clear and unequivocal set of advice to me. It is a majority-minority view.

I have also had to take into account the views of the Ministry of Defence. We went to Europe to claim jurisdiction over this particular case because of the essential defence interests as we saw them. The MOD told me—its view was clearly expressed to the MMC—that it believes that both bids should be allowed to proceed, because the MOD, which is the custodian of our defence interests, believes that it could handle the competitive issues involved in the process. I was influenced by its views; I believe that it is appropriate that I should be.

It is not just a question of the assurances given by GEC, because the MOD places the contracts. It is in a position to ensure that any assurances given by Lord Weinstock are honoured. He gave clear assurances that if Yarrow wins the type 23 frigate order, those frigates will be built at Yarrow. The MOD is in a position to ensure that that happens—not that I would like to cast any doubt on the integrity of Lord Weinstock's assurances.