Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th March 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury 12:00 am, 11th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the number of Eurofighter aircraft to be ordered by the Royal Air Force. [18043]

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

We will buy 232 Eurofighters to replace the Tornado F3 and the Jaguar. We may need more in future if Eurofighter proves to be the best replacement for other types of aircraft.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington , Aylesbury

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answer today will be warmly welcomed by the Royal Air Force, and in particular by my constituents in Halton and at strike command? Does he share my fears that Labour's refusal to exempt the European fighter aircraft from its proposed defence review bodes ill for the future of the Royal Air Force?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

It is dismaying that we have been through an entire Question Time and yet again Labour Front Benchers have been unwilling to say that any of the projects that have been mentioned—projects on which thousands of jobs and our armed forces depend—would be exempt from Labour's defence review. People will draw their own conclusions. The prospect should not be as discouraging as my hon. Friend suggests, because if people draw the right conclusions they will ensure that there is not a Labour Government.

Photo of Dr David Clark Dr David Clark Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

May I make it crystal clear yet again that Labour is fully committed to Eurofighter and will order it in office? Why does the Secretary of State persist in playing party politics over Eurofighter—an aeroplane that is so vital for the RAF and for Britain's aerospace industry? Does he not understand that, by doing so, he is giving succour to Eurofighter's enemies at home and abroad, putting at risk thousands of jobs in Britain and threatening the country's security in years to come?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

How many Eurofighters is the hon. Gentleman committed to? Is he committed to the stand-off missile, the amphibious assault ships and the frigates? Why does he not answer those questions? Why does he not tell us to what other projects he is committed? The British people know that he is not committed to those things, and they will draw their own conclusions.

Photo of Mr Robert Atkins Mr Robert Atkins , South Ribble

What does my right hon. Friend think will be the painful consequences for Eurofighter, British Aerospace, Leyland Trucks and anyone else who provides defence equipment to our armed forces of a defence review as suggested by the Labour party?

Photo of Mr Michael Portillo Mr Michael Portillo , Enfield, Southgate

After two months of internal struggle, today the Opposition defence spokesman, the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), gave a half-hearted promise about Eurofighter that is not worth the paper that it is not written on. He said nothing about the replacement maritime patrol aircraft, the Leyland orders that my right hon. Friend mentioned or the amphibious assault ships, the missiles, the frigates or any of the other projects that the Government have ordered.

There is time before the general election for people to wake up to what a Labour Government would mean: the destruction of jobs and the elimination of orders that are essential for the defence and security of this country and for the deterrence of threats to this country.