HC Deb 09 March 1964 vol 691 cc135-54

Motion made and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £234,250,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of aircraft and stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1965.

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

The first point on this Vote is that it has decreased by £8,810,000. As this is a deliberate result of Government policy, one's first thought is to congratulate them on achieving what they set out to achieve. I beg leave to doubt, however, whether the reduction is a good thing for the Royal Air Force and the nation at large.

I am not satisfied that all the money the Committee is being asked to vote is well spent. I have tabled a number of Questions to all the Service Ministers asking about contracts which were granted to Ferranti Limited in respect of the Bloodhound. Some of the cost of the maintenance of some of the Bloodhounds must be borne on this Vote.

I do not want to probe too much into that question, but I ask the Under-Secretary on behalf of the Government to give the Committee an assurance that where cases of excess payment are discovered, by the firms themselves, or as a result of investigations by whatever Service Department it may be, or as a result of investigations by the Public Accounts Committee, the money which has been overcharged will be refunded to the public. I go further and ask that in such cases when it is discovered that excessive amounts have been charged and refunds are due, no further contracts will be placed with those firms until the matters in question have been cleared up to the satisfaction of the Government.

There is no doubt that both sides of the Committee regard the burden of defence expenditure at 2,000 million as grievous. Most of us accept the necessity, but it is incumbent upon us to see that the money voted is properly spent. I am sure that the public has the right to expect us, as the guardians of the public purse, meeting in Committee of Supply, to take every precaution to insist on all the safeguards reasonably possible in a free society to make certain that when money has been spent which ought not to have been spent the public does not lose and that those, whether through neglect or for any other reason, who obtain that money shall not benefit from it. We have a right to be sure before passing these large sums of money that the Department concerned has been satisfied that procedures have been reexamined in order to make sure that similar happenings do not occur.

I am one of those who hold the view that the rôle of the Royal Air Force is primarily to carry the Army and to provide it with support and cover. I am very much on the side of the R.A.F. in the controversy with the Navy. I made my views on this subject clear earlier. I am optimistic enough to believe that the new set-up which we are to have in the Ministry of Defence will harmonise the conflicting interests and that when there is a conflict about types of aircraft, or the introduction of new aircraft, or the renovation of old, the public good will prevail on the basis of an objective analysis of the problems with which that Department of the Ministry is concerned and not considered in terms of providing a soup kitchen for the aircraft industry, as has happened too often in the past, or a soup kitchen for the shipbuilding industry. I hope that these problems will be considered objectively in the best interests of the Service Departments as a whole and that the one must be complementary to the other.

In the last week I have expressed my grave doubts about the way in which our defence policy has been distorted by what I regard as the over-pressures coming from the Navy Lobby. Supporters of the Navy Lobby may preen their feathers and pat themselves on the back, but a heavy price has to be paid, and I think that it will be paid by the Air Force. This decrease of £8 million is direct evidence of that and is one of the factors. A number of orders for aircraft should have been taken many months ago, but they were not taken because of the conflict behind the scenes, a conflict between the Navy and the Air Force of which we see only the signs.

We are told—and I hope that this will prove to be right—that the Ministry of Defence will harmonise this and that next year we will have Estimates which are realistic and in which we can have confidence. However, I wonder whether the new Minister will consider what we get. The McNamara report—[Laughter.]—hon. Members may smile but they ought to study this report. This weekend have re-examined its detailed information and the adult way in which it is presented to the American Armed Forces Committee. These Estimates have two pages—pages 148 and 149—covering £234 million.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

Anonymous millions.

Mr. Wigg

Exactly. We are told absolutely nothing. The McNamara report has inches of close type and there is even an index so that one can turn up aircraft, missiles, bomber force, surface-to-air missiles and work out that on 30th June the Americans will have 1,122 missiles. Nothing can be worked out from our Estimates, although we know that Britain has no missiles.

These Estimates add nothing to our understanding of the controversy about the V-bomber force and Blue Steel. The McNamara report tells us how many Hound Dog missiles the Americans have and how many are at the alert. Any responsible member of the House of Representatives, or of the Senate, or for that matter, any member of the American public, can look at this report and say that while 50,000 million dollars is being spent at least there is a group of men who are seeing that the nation is getting value for money. The facts which one needs to know are given; people are given the information on which to make up their minds.

We are spending £2,000 million on defence—£234 million on this Vote—and yet there are not 10 Members present in the Chamber and we have only two pages in the Estimates telling us nothing. I do not know much about City affairs, but if hon. Members were directors in the City they would not raise tuppence on this Estimate as a prospectus. We are asked to vote £234 million, and all I know about it is what I read in the Press and by reading mostly American sources—which is all one has to rely on.

I know something else. I know that in the fight for power the aircraft carriers and the Phantoms have won. If they have won and the Air Vote has gone down on aircraft, the battle has been won at the expense of the Royal Air Force and of the Army. On my view of the problem which faces this country in defence, I know that this cannot be good for the Navy; I do not believe that it is good even for the victors, because I believe that the policy is an unrealistic one. I know that it is not good for the Army. I am certain that it is not good for the Royal Air Force, and I am certain that it is not good for the taxpayer and for the country.

But whether one thinks it good or bad, Members of the Committee who come to this problem with fresh minds, who come to consider it in an adult assembly, in a responsible assembly, in an assembly with a Government which has nothing to hide, should be given in these Estimates the information on which they can come to a decision. But we are told nothing. We say that we are proud of this thing, and of that thing, and we pay lip service to them, but we take whatever they pour out from the benches opposite without knowing whether it is right or wrong.

8.30 p.m.

This is not the first time in our history that this has happened. Over the weekend I read a book by Mr. Devine called "The Blunted Sword". I wish that I had read it last week, because it had a lot to say about the Royal Navy. I wish that I had read it before we had our debate on the change of name from the Navy Board to the Admiralty. I cannot pretend to know whether the story told in the book is true, but it goes back into our history. Why should one have to go to that source to discover this information? Why does not some hon. Gentleman opposite who has the scholarship and the time do some homework and tell us the facts?

We are not told the facts about any aspect of our defence policy. If one speaks a little bluntly, and with a little enthusiasm, one is charged with name-calling. But this happens only when we do it. I noticed with interest last week that the Secretary of State for Air—who I regret is not with us—called us unilateralists. Fancy calling my right hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) a unilateralist! That was a calculated smear; a calculated distortion. But that was not enough. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation—fancy a Minister in the Ministry of Aviation talking like this in view of the way it conducts its affairs—while at Worcester said that my right hon. Friend's policy was shifty. And if that is not enough, in The Times on Saturday morning I saw a report that at a Conservative Party conference our policy was described as cowardly.

The Temporary Chairman (Commander Donaldson)

Order. The Committee respects the experience of the hon. Member, but I hope that he will relate what he is saying to Vote 7, and will not go too wide in the debate.

Mr. Wigg

What I am saying is that this is the kind of game that is played by Members opposite. They change the rules. It is football when they want it and cricket when they want it. They can call us unilateralists, shifty, and cowardly, but we are not supposed to say anything. I do not play it that way. I go by the principle that anything that is bunged at me will in due course he returned with compound interest, and that is what I have been doing.

I have been trying to expose—and I am using this opportunity to do it again—the vacillation and the cowardice of right hon. Gentlemen opposite who dare not tell their back benchers and the country the truth about the expenditure of £2,000 million. Because they dare not, they treat not only this assembly but the country as if they were children. The Government have produced the Estimates in this form, and I protest about it. I have been protesting for the last ten days. I protested during the debate on these Estimates a year ago, and I protest again tonight, because a price has to be paid. The hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) smiles. There is an intellectual giant. The hon. Gentleman holds a point of view about the Navy, and I respect him for it. He may be right and I may be wrong. I freely confess that, but by chance I might be right and he might be wrong. He never considers that. If he is right, we shall get three old aircraft carriers and 120 Phantoms. The Army will have no cover and no transport.

Mr. Wingfield Digby

During the last few days I have listened with great patience to the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg). I am always glad to hear his views, but the more briefly he puts them the more easily I am convinced.

Mr. Wigg

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would be convinced, and I am sure that that is meant as a jibe. It is the kind of childish remark which one can expect when one remembers that the hon. Gentleman spends very little time in this Chamber. During most of our debates last week there was hardly anyone in the Chamber. Therefore, I do not apologise for taking every opportunity I can—and I am doing it again—to spell out exactly the same thing. It is only by constant repetition that one can hope to make any impression. The hon. Member for Dorset, West and the school of thought that he represents have got away with it at the expense of this Vote.

I will spell it out again if he wants me to. Let hon. Members examine the statements that have been made about the P1154 and the HS681, and the decisions which have not yet been made about the helicopter. Over the past year decisions have been delayed, or decisions have been made and subsequently amended, in order to meet the political convenience of the Government. The question of the helicopter is the latest example of what I am saying. There was nothing in the Estimates. Then a statement was made by the Minister of Defence in such a form that the House had to take it on the nod. He promised to make a decision about the helicopter in the following week. Last week a Question was put to the Minister of Aviation. What happened? Did he announce a decision? No—there was no decision. And he will not say whether he will take a decision this week. Why? Because the battle that has gone on behind the scenes, between the vested interests and the Army, which is desperate for a helicopter, must await the political convenience of hon. Members opposite.

This is no way to carry out a defence policy, or to treat our people. The Government should not give them so little information that it is impossible, on the basis of the Estimates, to make up their minds. The Americans, on the other hand, with an expenditure many times bigger than ours, go to endless trouble, not only in terms of the form of the information originally given but also in that Ministers and civil servants give evidence before a committee, so that steps can be taken to make sure that not only the policy but the finance is right.

I do not know the remedy, but I have one advantage over the hon. Member for Dorset, West. At least I have tried to find one. I have put down on the Order Paper an Amendment to the Standing Orders to give the Estimates Committee powers, which it does not have at present, to look into policy, so that we shall be able to have a committee on defence expenditure. If we cannot have it in the House, we ought to be able to have it in Committee upstairs. What answer has been given to my arguments in this respect? We have had the asinine answer that it would involve questions of security. The Americans can do it, with much more to hide than we have. If they can submit their policies to a public examination, with due regard to security, surely we can do the same.

There is no real alternative to a detailed examination of these Service Estimates by a committee which has power to take evidence on oath, to call for witnesses and to examine not only the method by which money is spent but also the policy involved. The only alternative is to have policies about which we are not very sure, in connection with which information is not made available, so that at the end of the day we wake up when it is too late, to find that fundamental errors have been made. It is against that possibility that I once again raise my voice in protest.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Earlier on, the hon. Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) made it clear that he did not have much time for the Royal Navy. I am sure that the Air Council will be gratified at having at least his support. I support the Royal Air Force in its strategic rôle, and I also support Coastal Command, which is a very important Command. The hon. Member referred to helicopters. I imagine that those required by the Army would be on the Army Vote. I do not think that they would be the responsibility of my hon. Friend. Nevertheless, I agree that a decision aught to be made fairly soon.

In the defence debate a fortnight ago, I asked the Minister of Defence some questions about delivery. I recognise that over the last 19 years during which time the hon. Member for Dudley and myself have been in this House we have not been told a great deal about defence. But two wrongs do not make a right, and if the hon. Member will cast his mind back to the time when he was Parliamentary private secretary to the then Minister of State for War, he will recall that we were told precious little in those days and I did not hear the hon. Gentleman protest.

Mr. Wigg

The hon. Member says that he did not hear me protest. He should go back to the time of the first debates on the Service Estimates after the Labour Government came into office. I do not think the hon. Gentleman was a Member of this House at that time, but his hon. Friends and myself in debate after debate on the Service Estimates kept the Government up all night. Let him check that in HANSARD.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Whether that is so or not, it is a long time ago, nearly 20 years, and not very much happened when a Government of the hon. Member's party were in office.

Mr. Wigg

Nor has it since the Government of the hon. Member's party has been in office.

Sir A. V. Harvey

The position has improved to some extent——

Mr. Wigg


Sir A. V. Harvey

I disagree with the hon. Gentleman.

I have no doubt that the security people tell Ministers, "You must not say anything about this or that", and I do not expect a reply to the questions which I propose to put to the Minister. But we have voted the expenditure of a great deal of money on the safety of this country. It runs into many millions and covers the plans for several years ahead. I am not asking to be told how many aircraft have been ordered, although, as I said in the defence debate, one could probably read it in the American Newsweek or in Izvestia. But we require to be told when the equipment will be delivered. We must have that information in order to be able to estimate whether this country can be defended. The Hunters are getting a bit "old in the tooth". The P1154 will take several years to replace them. No one is blaming the Minister except for the fact that the contract could have been placed two years ago. But I should like to know when the P1154 will begin to fly. There is also the HS681 to replace the Hastings, an aircraft which has done great service for Transport Command despite a limited range.

There is also the question of the Belfast. I notice that none of my hon. Friends who represent Ulster constituencies is in the Chamber at the present moment. The first Belfast has flown, but how long will it take to develop this aircraft? We badly need a strategic freighter. If anything goes wrong at Cyprus or Aden we shall desperately need an aircraft which could fly troops and materials for longer distances. May we be told when Short Bros. and Harland estimate that this equipment can be delivered? The Avro 748 was ordered about two years ago—I believe very much against the advice of the Air Council, which wanted the Handley Page Herald. But it had to take the Avro 748. When will that aircraft come into squadron use?

We are entitled to be given a minimum amount of information on delivery dates. I will let the Minister off telling us about the cost or how many aircraft are to be supplied—though it would not he difficult to find out that information if one set one's mind to it. But we are entitled to have information about delivery dates in order to judge whether the money has been spent correctly and the country can be defended. I must, through my hon. Friend, protest to the Minister of Defence because he did not reply to my speech in the defence debate——

Mr. Wigg

The right hon. Gentleman did not reply to anybody.

Sir A. V. Harvey

—and I must ask that we have more information.

Mr. Mulley

We all agree that this is a most important and very expensive Vote involving practically half the cost of the provision for the Air Force. I wish to reinforce the eloquent plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) for more information about these matters. I defy anyone to read Vote 7 and obtain from it any idea of the amount of money for particular projects or how the figures are worked out. The only impression which one gets from looking at the Vote is that, somehow or other, £254 million is to be spent and that, in some imprecise way, £20 million is to come back, which represents a net charge on the Vote of £234 million. As the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) said, we cannot go on not knowing delivery dates. I would go further than him and say that I see no reason why we cannot be told, when an order is placed, the number of planes which have been ordered. For some months the Government have told us that they cannot say how many Belfasts are on order and then we suddenly find the item appearing in a Government White Paper or in a chart at the back of the book.

8.45 p.m.

In the defence debate the Minister resisted questions about how many Phantom planes he was intending to order. Yet in the course of his speech he volunteered to tell us how many helicopters he would order, although he had not made up his mind which one it would be. I cannot see any difference from the point of view of security in knowing how many Phantoms are on order and how many helicopters are on order. There should be a policy so that the number of planes concerned, or at least their cost, was released for public information. Even if we were told the cost we should not know the precise number. If the Secretary of Defence in the United States can tell Congress by having his speech printed as a public paper—and obviously there is no restriction on the information contained in it—not only the numbers but the cost of a great number of the defence projects of the United States, either he is letting the alliance down by giving away valuable information, or the Government here are hiding behind the cloak of security from the complaints and criticisms which I am sure would come from both sides of the Committee if the truth were made known.

I elicited from the Secretary of State for Air in column 601 of HANSARD for 27th February that the only sum this year to be spent on new aircraft was £64 million, which gives a quite different impression from the total of £234 million given in this vote. The first thing that I should like to know from the Under-Secretary of State is this: if only £64 million out of £234 million is to be spent on new aircraft, what is the rest of the money to be spent on?

Arising from the same Question, I obtained the information that 17 per cent. of the £64 million—roughly £11 million—is to be spent on Bomber Command. What will Bomber Command get this year for the £11 million? Will it all go on Blue Steel, or does it include additional V-bombers—Victor Hs or Vulcan IIs—still to be delivered? Surprisingly, the biggest figure in the new item is 35 per cent. of the £64 million, namely, about £22 million, going to Fighter Command. I should have thought that this rated much lower priority than, for example, Transport Command. I was told in this Answer that only 5 per cent. of the £64 million, namely, £3¼ million, was being spent on new transport aircraft. A little over 1½ per cert. of the total expenditure on the aircraft and stores is going on new aircraft for Transport Command, although great speeches have been made, rightly, from both sides about the need to develop our mobility.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield stressed the need for strategic freighters, such as the Belfast. This year there is a figure of only £3¼ million in this connection. The conclusion which I draw from what I have been able to discover about the provisions in the Estimates and the fact that only £64 million is going to Transport Command—43 per cent. of the £64 million is unaccounted for; that is presumably for overseas commands, and so on—is that we shall have practically no new aircraft in the Air Force in 1964–65. If I am wrong about that, I should be glad to know from the Under-Secretary what aircraft are expected to be delivered.

I reinforce the plea made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield about delivery dates of other items in the programme. The contrast between the kind of information we get—and, I suspect, the quantity of aircraft the R.A.F. will actually get next year—and the numbers and types of plane in development is very marked. I suspect that there is nothing in this Vote for the P1154, the TSR2, the Belfast, the Avro 748 or the Hawker Siddeley 681, five aircraft which occupied ail the discussion on the White Paper and in the defence debate. I challenge the Under-Secretary to say whether for any of these aircraft any cost is set out in this Vote.

I know there is a problem in so far as there is an extremely complicated cross accounting system between the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Aviation. The surprising thing is that we get any military aircraft at all when we consider how the Government have set up the coming and going between the Royal Air Force, which should know about the aircraft—as the hon. Member for Macclesfield said, it usually gets a different plane from the one it wants—and the Ministry of Aviation, with the Treasury, I suspect, coming in frequently and not being very helpful. It is a miracle that with all these controls we get any aircraft at all. Nevertheless, despite all this enormous expensive apparatus which has been set up, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley mentioned in the case of Ferranti and a number of others, there is vast over-expenditure.

If we are to have meaningful debates on defence, we must know what proportion of the £2,000 million defence bill is being spent on new equipment. If we cannot have information about the exact types and quantity of new aircraft which have been, or will be, bought, we should at least be enabled to distinguish new aircraft from replacement and spares. If the Royal Air Force acquires an aircraft it breaks down the cost under different headings, airframes, engines, armament and electronic equipment. We should know if we buy 10 Belfasts what the cost will be to bring them into service. We do not want to know the separated cost of the airframe, the engine, electronic equipment and the rest, but we should be given a clear picture.

I hope that, rather belatedly, the Under-Secretary can give us much more information than we have been given so far. However hard working one might be, it would be difficult to produce the information from the Votes before us. At the very minimum we should insist on answers to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley and the hon. Member for Macclesfield. We should have the kind of information which the Committee must have before authorising the expenditure of £234 million.

Mr. F. Taylor

I find myself bemused by the types of aircraft in service and in prospect, bewildered by the descriptive particulars given to them and rather staggered by the cost. I wonder if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can give us a sort of stock-taking, such as a commercial firm produces at the end of the year, showing the different numbers and types of aircraft and their cost. I would prefer my hon. Friend to go beyond that and to give the residual value so that we could know what we have, but that may not be available to produce off the cuff. Some figures of the cost would help a lot.

Sir H. Harrison

I draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the Vote deals with stores as well as with aircraft. The point to which I draw my hon. Friend's attention is the Vote of £3,100,000 under Subhead G dealing with clothing, a reduction from £4 million in the year before. Will this clothing be used in the forthcoming year or will it all go into store? Why is there a reduction from the previous year? There is a feeling that not sufficient care is taken in the quantity of clothing ordered for our Services and that later much of it is called surplus and is sold at very low prices because it has been held for too long in store.

Under appropriations in aid there are receipts relating to clothing of £1,400,000, which is the same as last year. The two added together amount to almost the sum which we are paying. Is this clothing which has been used or was it bought some years ago and is it now being sold at a very low price? This kind of thing alarms the public unless they know that there is proper care and attention in buying this type of stores.

Mr. Ridsdale

The hon. Members for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) once again referred to the statement made to the Armed Services Committee of the House of Representatives in January by Mr. McNamara, and they compared it unfavourably with our own Statement on Defence. To a degree comparisons are odious, particularly when the constitutional backgrounds of our two countries are quite dissimilar.

The hon. Member for Dudley referred to the American expenditure of 50,000 million dollars and to the £234 million of our Vote 7. If we were seeking approval for an estimate of 50,000 million dollars or some £20 billion on Vote 7, we might consider that the release of more detailed information was in our national interest. Even so, the American statements which the hon. Member commended so much are not all-embracing. However much he may have searched through the American statement, I am sure that the hon. Member has not been able to find any information about the Mach 3 aircraft which the Americans flew in the past week.

Mr. Mulley

The hon. Member has completely missed the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) and I tried to impress on him. I will take it very slowly. If the argument for not giving the information which we seek is a security argument, then, whether he gives a complete survey or not, the Secretary of Defence of the United States is guilty of a breach of security of the alliance, because he is prepared in the modification of the B52 to state how much it costs, whereas we apparently may not be told how much it will cost to modify the V-bomber force for the same purpose. Mr. McNamara also gave numbers of aircraft and their cost. It is true that he probably did not give a complete picture in his public testimony because, in addition to the printed and published information, there is much private briefing which is not published. We know the constitutional difficulties which account for that.

Secondly, the hon. Member just made a most extraordinary point. He said that because we are spending only a little, the Government cannot possibly tell the Committee how they are spending it. This must be a classic remark for any Minister coming to the Committee for Supply. He says, "We are not being given enough money, so we cannot tell you how we are spending it. If we were spending fifty times as much, we should have to tell the Committee a little more." This is quite unacceptable from a Minister of the Crown who is asking the Committee for Supply. If he intends to refuse information without backing his refusal by good security reasons, he is setting a precedent for the future relations between the Committee and Ministers on the question.

Mr. Ridsdale

I hope in the course of my reply to be able to give more detailed explanations, but the precedent which we have been following in these Votes is one which we have followed in the Committee for many years and which was followed by the Labour Party when in power.

I come to the point that whereas over 20 per cent. of the total Vote from 1959 to 1964 has gone to new aircraft, engines and weapons, it is proposed to spend only 13 per cent. for this purpose next year. The main reason for the relatively high expenditure over the past five years was the heavy capital expenditure on the V-bomber force which, as we have explained so many times, has practically ended. All we are left with next year on Bomber Command is the expenditure on the last Few V-bombers and the running costs of the V-bombers.

Secondly, the statements about new aircraft which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence made in the defence debate do not affect the Air Votes during next year. The expenditure on such aircraft as HS 681 and P1154 will be only on the development stage and will therefore be a charge on the Ministry of Aviation Vote.

9.0 p.m.

On the point made by the hon. Member for Dudley about seeing that we get value for money, I am sure that there is nobody, on either side of the Committee, who is concerned with the Estimates who is not anxious that we get value for money in what we are spending. Before answering the hon. Member's specific points, I must explain the differerce in the allocation between the Ministry of Aviation Vote and the Air Ministry Vote and the division of responsibility between the Ministry of Aviation and the Air Ministry for the financing of aircraft and aircraft equipment.

Financial responsibility for the development of aircraft, guided weapons and electronics rests with the Ministry of Aviation, and the cost of this development is borne on the main Vote of that Department. The Ministry of Aviation is also responsible for procuring the production quantities of this equipment which the Air Ministry requires, but in this case it acts as agent for the Air Ministry and is responsible for letting contracts and making payments to manufacturers, including all progress payments. The Air Ministry, in return, repays the Ministry of Aviation, but as a general principle it does so only when the manufacture of the equipment has been completed and it has been delivered to the Royal Air Force.

The Ministry of Aviation payments to the manufacturers and the receipts from the Air Ministry are carried on a Ministry of Aviation Vote. Over a period of years this Vote should be approximately in balance, but in any one year the payments to manufacturers are not necessarily in respect of the same equipment as the receipts from the Air Ministry.

The Ministry of Aviation main Vote for 1964–65 contains appropriate provision for aircraft under development, including the P1154 and the HS681, in respect of which the Minister of Defence has announced the decision to go ahead with development. The Purchasing (Repayment) Services Vote contains provision for payments to manufacturers for those aircraft which are already under construction but which have not yet been delivered, for instance, the VC10 and the Belfast. Vote 7, as I have explained, contains provision for aircraft to be delivered to the Royal Air Force in 1964–65. This includes Vulcans and Lightning 3s, and in this year the aircraft destined for Transport Command are confined to some Beagles and HS748s. Most of the Air Ministry's payments to the Ministry of Aviation are made under what are called bulk settlements. As is explained in Appendix VII on page 172 of the Defence Estimates, a provisional settlement is made towards the end of each financial year, and any adjustment is made in the following financial year when the value of actual deliveries during the year is known. I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Dudley that we must insist on all the safeguards possible in a free society for proper economy in the buying of our aircraft and stores.

The hon. Member referred to the Bloodhound contract and asked for an assurance that if an overpayment or a similar irregularity were discovered no further contract would be placed until the matter was cleared up. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Aviation, who will, I have no doubt, consider what steps are necessary in the light of the investigation at present being conducted by Sir John Lang.

Mr. Wigg

This is not so much a matter for the Minister of Aviation. I have not put this question specifically in relation to the present investigation. I believe there are other cases. What I want is a statement on behalf of the Government that in any future case where there is an over-payment, refunds can be made to the public and no further contract placed until the matter is cleared up. Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to ask his right hon. Friend, or the Prime Minister perhaps, to make an early statement to the House on the policy enshrined in this matter?

Mr. Ridsdale

I am sure that what the hon. Member for Dudley has said will be noted by my right hon. Friend.

The hon. Member also suggested that the Royal Air Force has lost out to the Navy over the Phantom. Let me say at once that nothing is further from the truth. The fact is that both Services will get the aircraft they need. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence made clear in the defence debate, every effort was made to develop a common aircraft based on the P1154.

Mr. Ross

There is nothing in the Estimates about that.

Mr. Ridsdale

Unfortunately, for technical reasons, this was not possible, despite the great efforts that were made to develop such an aircraft.

I should like to pay tribute to the Air and Naval Staffs who have worked extremely closely together, in great harmony, in carrying out the very detailed examinations into this problem. As I have said, it was technically not practicable to marry the two requirements. Indeed, the Royal Air Force requires an aircraft to replace the Hunter in the ground attack reconnaissance rôle, as the hon. Gentleman knows. The basic requirement was written around the need to support the Army in the field. The main characteristics required are that the aircraft should be capable of V./S.T.O.L., that it should have a rough field performance, together with the ability to operate away from main bases for prolonged periods, and be able to carry weapons necessary to support the Army. In addition, it should have some capability as a day fighter. The Royal Navy, on the other hand, needs an all-weather fighter primarily for the defence of the Fleet. To meet these two different requirements against the background of the conditions that must be expected in the 'seventies needs two different types of aircraft—

Mr. Ross

I do not want to be naughty, but can the hon. Gentleman tell me where the 'seventies and these aircraft are mentioned in the Estimates?

Mr. Ridsdale

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not wish me to continue to reply to the points raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Dudley. As the hon. Member for Dudley was not ruled out of order, I felt it only my duty to try to reply to his questions.

There is, therefore, no question of the Royal Air Force not getting what it needs, or of letting the Army down. Indeed, the contrary is the case. V./S.T.O.L. was not only developed in this country, but is one of the most radical changes in aviation since man first began to fly. I am sure that these points are an answer to some of the criticisms made by the hon. Member for Dudley.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Park and other hon. Members asked me to give more details of aircraft numbers and costs. I have been speaking generally in reply to some of the arguments on Vote 7, but I would underline once again that Vote 7 contains no provision for the TSR2 the P1154, the Hawker-Siddeley 681 or the VC10. Expenditure on these programmes will fall next year on the Ministry of Aviation Votes. Air Votes meet the cost only when the aircraft are delivered to the Royal Air Force.

Paragraphs 169 and 170 of the Statement on Defence list the main aircraft for which provision is made on Vote 7. There are continuing deliveries of the Vulcan Mark 2, the Wessex Mark 2, the Jet Provost and the Gnat, and also first deliveries of the Lightning Mark 3, the HS748 and the Beagle 206—

Sir A. V. Harvey

Listening to my hon. Friend, it seems to me that he is disclaiming responsibility for these new types that are coming along and will not tell us about them because they are not included in this year's figures, but that is not what happens in planning a business or a Service Department. My hon. Friend must have agreed, or his right hon. Friend must have agreed, that the aircraft will be ordered, and we are surely entitled to know when they will be delivered. I must ask my hon. Friend to take us more into his confidence in this matter and not seek just to brush us off.

Mr. Ridsdale

I thank my hon. Friend for that reminder of the points he made, and I hope to come to them very shortly. He asked when many of our new aircraft will be delivered. I would say that the question of delivery dates is a difficult one. In certain cases it would be of interest to hon. Members, and it would be of undesirable interest outside as well to certain other countries. I will go no further than to say that we expect delivery of the P1154 and the HS681 by the end of the 'sixties—or around the turn of the decade. The HS748 will be in service next year, I believe that the Belfast will be in service in the following year, and that the VC10 will be about a year later.

Mr. Wigg

When are we to get the Phantom?

Mr. Ridsdale

I think that the hon. Member will have to wait for the Navy Vote.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That a sum not exceeding £234,250,000, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the expense of aircraft and stores, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1965.