Eurofighter

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 21st June 2004.

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Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde 2:30 pm, 21st June 2004

If he will make a statement on when he expects to conclude his negotiations with BAE Systems on the tranche 2 contract for the Eurofighter.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

Negotiations with BAE Systems regarding the order for tranche 2 Typhoons are continuing. We and our partner nations need to acquire aircraft with the right capabilities to meet our requirements, at an affordable price.

Photo of Michael Jack Michael Jack Conservative, Fylde

While I thank the Secretary of State for those words, may I point out to him that they do not answer the question I posed? He has been in discussion with BAE Systems on tranche 2 for at least the last nine months, and he will be aware of the uncertainties that the absence of an announcement is causing among the work force at BAE at Warton in my constituency. Will he outline the problems that are preventing a decision from being made on that vital procurement programme? When will he be able to announce that decision—at Farnborough or when the comprehensive spending review is complete?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman's idea of a negotiation appears to be to find out what the other side want and give it to them. He was a Treasury Minister in the last Conservative Government, so perhaps that explains why their economic policies were such a disaster. However, I can tell him that there is a question about the price. We are engaged in a negotiation and I will go on negotiating on the Government's behalf until I get the right price.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Labour, Chorley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a lot of workers throughout Lancashire are very worried about tranche 2? What message does he have for the work force there and what message does he have for the management of BAE Systems?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

I shall not repeat what I have just said on the question of the price, but on behalf of the Government I say to the work force, and indeed to the management, that the six aircraft that have been received in service are performing superbly. This is a magnificent aircraft and it is exceeding our expectations. The next production aircraft is due to be accepted in service this week, and two aircraft are shortly due to lead the export campaign in Singapore, where the aircraft has already been shortlisted. This is a superb aircraft, but obviously it is important that we get the right price for it.

Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

Will the Secretary of State explain the implications for RAF Leeming should he decide not to proceed with the second tranche?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence

The second tranche aircraft, as the hon. Lady knows, is of a different kind from tranche 1. It will have different capabilities and will provide an air-to-ground capability not originally envisaged when Typhoon was designed many, many years ago. It is vital to the future not only of RAF Leeming, but of the strike capabilities of the RAF that we secure tranche 2 aircraft. I emphasise, however, that that must be at an affordable price.