HC Deb 11 December 1963 vol 686 cc371-2
5. Mr. Willis

asked the Minister of Defence when he expects to complete the project study for a replacement for the Hunter and Sea Vixen.

Mr. Thorneycroft

The project study has been completed but it raised a number of problems, the implications of which are the subject of further examination.

Mr. Willis

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is what he has told us previously? Would he make it clear that it is still the Government's intention to proceed with a common aircraft for the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy?

Mr. Thorneycroft

If the hon. Gentleman had heard my earlier reply, he would have known that there are difficulties in producing an aircraft capable of common operation from carriers and the land. I do not want to repeat the details of what I stated on an earlier occasion.

Mr. McMaster

When this aircraft is announced for the Navy, is it anticipated that it will have a vertical takeoff capacity?

Mr. Thorneycroft

The aircraft to which the Question refers is one with a vertical take-off capacity.

Mr. Healey

Is the Minister aware that there is serious concern in the aircraft industry at widespread reports that the Royal Navy is considering buying Phantoms and that the Royal Air Force is considering the purchase of foreign planes? Can he assure us that a decision will be taken on the future of the P.1154 in the next few weeks? Otherwise, the decision may, in effect, pass out of Her Majesty's Government's hands.

Mr. Thorneycroft

I am not in the least responsible for speculation in the newspapers, and I would not attempt to answer for it. My concern is to see that any operational requirement is properly studied and that no project is started which is bound to be very expensive, whatever the choice, without a full examination.