HC Deb 28 April 1958 vol 587 cc5-7
10. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Supply how many English Electric P.1 fighter aircraft have been ordered; and what additional orders are being placed for the P.1 fighter aircraft.

13. Mr. Mason

asked the Minister of Supply if he is now in a position to state how many English Electric P.1 fighter aircraft have been ordered; what additional orders are expected to be placed; and how far it is still the intention to make this aircraft the backbone of Fighter Command.

The Minister of Supply (Mr. Aubrey Jones)

I cannot give figures, but I can say that further orders for the P.1 fighter and an order for the trainer version for the Royal Air Force have been authorised and contracts will be negotiated as necessary to ensure continuity of production.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his statement this afternoon will give much satisfaction to the industry, the workers and the Royal Air Force? Will he confirm whether or not the orders to be placed include the weapons to go with them? One is no good without the other?

Mr. Jones

I am glad to hear the first half of my hon. Friend's supplementary question. I require notice of the second half before answering it.

Mr. Mason

Is it not true that the ordering in quantity of this aircraft has been seriously delayed because it has been subject to argument and used as a political shuttlecock between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Defence? Is not that regrettable? Secondly, is this batch of P.1s to be the final batch of fighter aircraft for the Royal Air Force?

Mr. Jones

There has been no delay. The aim of Her Majesty's Government is to ensure continuity of production. If negotiations for further orders now take place, they will be done in such a way and at such time as to ensure continuity. That has been the objective all along.

Mr. Beswick

Is it not a fact that this represents something of a reversal of policy? Since we are asking the industry to rationalise itself, and since it is impossible for it to rationalise itself unless it knows what the requirements of its State customer will be, can the Minister assure us that his colleagues in the Cabinet know that we cannot turn production in the aircraft industry on and off like a tap? Can we be assured that the industry knows what the Government will require from it?

Mr. Jones

I am not aware of any policy having been reversed. In order to help the industry, what is necessary is to order in time to ensure continuity of production so that production does not break down prematurely. The negotiations which have now started should ensure such continuity.

Mr. Mason

Can the Minister say whether this is the final batch of fighter aircraft?