HC Deb 15 July 1964 vol 698 cc1191-2
26. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what defence aircraft have been ordered from firms in the United States; and if he will make a statement.

67. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what military aircraft he has ordered so far from the United States.

Mr. Thorneycroft

None, Sir.

27. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current total value of orders for military, naval and air force supplies and equipment from firms in the United States and the total value of current commitments.

Mr. Thorneycroft

In 1963–64 about £9½ million was spent in the United States out of estimated total defence budget expenditure on production and research of £728 million. At 1st April, 1964, the value of outstanding orders, mostly Polaris missiles, with American firms was just over £50 million, spread over the next four years.

Mr. Stonehouse

Why cannot these orders be placed with firms in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Thorneycroft

It is a pretty small percentage, £9½ million out of £728 million. Anything less would mean almost cutting trade off completely.

Sir A. V. Harvey

If in future any orders are placed in the United States, would my right hon. Friend undertake to see that there is a quid pro quo and that in return the United States will undertake to order equipment here?

Mr. Thorneycroft

My hon. Friend is quite right. These are important considerations. In so far as possible, one wants to try to exchange orders of this kind, so that all of us share in the manufacture of the weapons required by the West as a whole.

Mr. Healey

While strongly supporting the right hon. Gentleman on the latter point, may I ask him whether he can tell us what happened to the order announced to the House for Phantom aircraft for the Royal Navy? Can he say whether there is any truth in the rumour mat the McDonnell Company are threatening not to go ahead with the order unless it is placed in the next four months?

Mr. Thorneycroft

No truth whatever, but I hope it will be placed well before then. I am asked here what orders have been placed. The placing of an order is a formal act in the process of production. This has not taken place at the present stage, but I have every hope that it will.

Mr. Cronin

Bearing in mind that it is probably of very dubious economic value to modernise Phantom aircraft to take Rolls-Royce engines and to be able to operate from British carriers, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this order and consider again the idea of giving orders to the British aircraft industry, particularly bearing in mind that he has been supplied with various designs from Hawker Siddeley for the very same purpose?

Mr. Thorneycroft

I do not find that supplementary question at all complimentary to one of the greatest aero-engine firms in the world.