HC Deb 16 January 1964 vol 687 cc381-3
3. Mr. Mulley

asked the Secretary of State for Air if he has decided the operational requirements for the replacement of Hunter and Shackleton aircraft; and when he expects these aircraft to reach the end of their service.

6. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Air what consideration he has given to replacing the Shackleton aircraft of Coastal Command.

Mr. H. Fraser

The problem of replacing both the Hunter and the Sea Vixen is still under examination and I have nothing to add to the Answers which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence gave on 20th November and 11th December.

The Shackleton has several years of effective life ahead of it, but studies on its replacement are in progress.

Mr. Mulley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his Answer will give great concern to those interested in maintaining the strength of our Air Force, on the one hand, and maintaining the work of the aircraft industry, on the other? Is he not aware that there is great concern about the delay in taking decisions? Does he think that, if we delay taking these decisions, there is any possibility of obtaining the foreign orders for the aircraft chosen which are essential if we are to produce them at a reasonable and economic price?

Mr. Fraser

I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a matter of urgency here. At the same time, I think that it is more important to get the answer to this problem right.

Mr. Cronin

Is not the real truth of the matter that the Government have spent so much money on cancelled aircraft and on excessively high research and development costs that there is no money available to replace these aircraft?

Mr. Fraser

No, I do not think that is true.

Mr. Healey

Do the Government propose to take a decision on this matter for incorporation in next year's Defence White Paper?

Mr. Fraser

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence stated that it is under active consideration. It is for him to make the decision and make an announcement to the House.