HC Deb 08 December 1965 vol 722 cc414-6
39. Sir J. Eden

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will make a statement about his evaluation of the Spey/Mirage fitted with the TSR2 avionics as compared with the latest version of the F111A.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

Our evaluation of the Spey/Mirage has been completed. It is now being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and myself.

Sir J. Eden

Does not the dilemma in which the Government now find themselves show that they made a grotesque error in cancelling the TSR2? Whatever their Canberra replacement decision may be, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to give the fullest possible information to the House on the facts concerning the various alternatives which he has considered? Finally, would he promise, whatever the decision—or whether or not there is a decision—to make a further statement to this House before it rises for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. Jenkins

On the first point there is no question, either in my view or the view of the Government, that the TSR2 decision has been shown to be a mistake. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Whatever replacement we find for the Canberra we will save at least £300 million, and probably a great deal more. To have gone ahead, without saving this sum of money, would have made it quite impossible to maintain any ceiling at all to the defence budget. The answer to the second point of the hon. Gentleman's question is that this is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who will inform the House of the position before it rises.

Mr. Snow

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members on this side of the House, viewing today's Order Paper, are getting increasingly concerned at the efficiency of the public relations body operating on behalf of the aircraft industry?

Mr. Ridsdale

If we really want to assist the aircraft industry and obtain better co-operation with the French, surely it would be better to give them a more advanced plane than the Spey/Mirage?

Mr. Jenkins

If by that the hon. Member is referring to variable geometry projects, I would say to him and the House that I attach the greatest possible importance to this project, and we will bear it very much in mind in making our decisions, so that we shall do nothing that will endanger the future of such a project.