HC Deb 17 March 1965 vol 708 cc1266-8
26. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now make a statement on the future of the TSR2 project.

34. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will now make a further statement on the TSR2.

Mr. Roy Jenkins

The further review announced by the Prime Minister on 2nd February is not yet complete. Until it is, I cannot make a statement.

Mr. Hamilton

Can my right hon. Friend give any indication when this final announcement will be made? Can he give an assurance to those hon. Members on this side of the House who would like to see the project abandoned that the scientific personnel employed on the project could easily be absorbed in much more worth-while projects?

Mr. Jenkins

I cannot give an exact date when an announcement will be made, but a decision will be taken as soon as we have assembled all the relevant facts. We are anxious not to take a decision before we have these facts, and are anxious not to postpone the decision the moment after we have them.

Mr. Digby

Can the Minister confirm that the trials are going extremely well, and far exceed expectations? Will he also comment on the fact that there is a drift of skilled people from the project, and will he make up his mind quickly?

Mr. Jenkins

As is inevitable at this stage, there are some difficulties with the aircraft, but the trials, on the whole, are going well. The Government will make up their mind as soon as they can, but they will have to decide between the advice of the right hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Thorneycroft), who urged us to be slow in making up our mind on this issue, and that of the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby).

Mr. Maude

Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that he will be motivated in making his decision solely by the aeronautical and military considerations and not by the political pressure of his hon. Friends?

Mr. Jenkins

The Government—this is certainly a matter for the Government as a whole—in their decision will be actuated by a wide range of considerations. Certainly aeronautical, military and economic considerations as a whole and also certainly social and employment considerations.

Mr. Ioan L. Evans

Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will closely examine the defence white elephants built by the last Government and particularly those defence white elephants which they were trying to fly?

Mr. J. Amery

Is the Minister aware that grave anxiety has been caused in the industry by the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Defence that there would be no need for a Canberra replacement in Europe and that, whatever decision the Government are likely to take on this question, this could mean a great contraction in orders for the TSR2? Can the Government clarify their position on this matter?

Mr. Jenkins

Clearly the need for a Canberra replacement in Europe is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and not for me.