HC Deb 01 February 1967 vol 740 cc482-3
9. Mr. Onslow

asked the Minister of Aviation whether the agreement with the French Government regarding the joint development of a variable geometry military aircraft ensures that the project will at least be carried as far as the production of one or more prototypes.

11. Mr. R. Carr

asked the Minister of Aviation if he will publish the terms of the agreement covering the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft and the arrangements for joint research and manufacture, including particularly the conditions under which either party can withdraw from the agreement.

Mr. Stonehouse

The terms of our agreement with the French are confidential but we are now engaged in detailed studies with a view to starting the prototype stage at the beginning of 1968. Development work will be shared equally between the British Aircraft Corporation and Avions Marcel Dassault on the airframe and between Bristol Siddeley Engines and SNECMA on the engine. Allocation of production will depend on the two requirements. As regard the break clause I have nothing to add to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 17th May, 1965.—[Vol. 712, c. 1006–11.]

Mr. Onslow

While the Minister may regard this agreement as confidential, is he aware that apparently the French Government do not? Will he say whether he accepts the statement by the French Minister of Information, M. Bourges, that the whole thing comes up for radical review at the end of this year and is not in any sense final?

Mr. Stonehouse

We have reached agreement with the French to go ahead with a serious research study. As far as we are concerned, the main agreement has been reached, and we are very satisfied with that agreement.

Mr. R. Carr

On the question of the confidentiality of the agreement, does not the Minister realise that this is a vital project for this country involving very large expenditure over a large number of years? Ought not this House to be given the basic terms of the agreement? While we all accept the security involved on the specification of the aeroplane, the basic commercial terms should surely be published.

Mr. Stonehouse

I will consider that request and will see that as much information as can be provided to the House will be made available.

Mr. Dalyell

Is the Minister aware that many of us view this project with the deepest misgivings? Can he tell us if the Government are privy to the negotiations which have gone on on the Mirage 3G between Dassault and the French Government?

Mr. Stonehouse

I am well aware of them, but I do not think that the Mirage 3G is a serious competitor.

Mr. Dalyell

Of course it is.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

In view of the large sums of public money involved, does the Minister mean, in saying that the terms of the agreement are confidential, that he never intends to disclose them to the House?

Mr. Stonehouse

I have given an assurance that I want to provide as much information as possible to the House, and I will provide it as soon as I can.