HC Deb 12 April 1967 vol 744 cc1188-9
22. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has now agreed a specification for the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft; and how many of these he expects to order for the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Healey

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Technology and I are meeting the French Minister for the Armed Forces next Monday, 17th April, to consider the results of the work done by our officials on the specification of the aircraft. It is too early to take decisions yet on the number of aircraft.

Mr. Goodhew

The right hon. Gentleman has been talking about making decisions about the specification of this aircraft for some time. In view of the uncertainty that exists in the Royal Air Force about even the number of Phantoms which will be at its service, should not the right hon. Gentleman rapidly agree on some figure in respect of the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft?

Mr. Healey

Certainly not without knowing the cost and other details about the programme. But I have always made it clear to the House that we planned to take decisions on specification in April. That is what we plan to do. The hon. Member ought to remember that.

Mr. Hooley

Can my right hon. Friend give any estimate of the approximate difference in cost between designing this aircraft purely for an interceptor rôle and for a strike and interceptor rôle?

Mr. Healey

A great deal depends on the precise operation characteristics of the interceptor or strike aircraft. I can say that if this aircraft were designed purely for an interceptor rôle, as now seen, we could accommodate the characteristics required of it as a strike aircraft within that ceiling.

Mr. Hastings

Can the Minister tell the House anything about the talks held recently with General Steinhoff, Chief of the German Air Staff, about this aircraft, which were surely relevant to this issue?

Mr. Healey

I think that there is a Question already on the Order Paper about that point.