HC Deb 01 March 1967 vol 742 cc477-80
4. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has now agreed with the Royal Air Force the requirements to be incorporated in the specification for the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft; and what representations he has received as to its acceptability to the German and Dutch air forces, both of which have expressed an interest in purchasing some of them.

Mr. Healey

Agreement has already been reached with the French on the operational requirement for this aircraft and we are in the process of completing the specification. We are, however, anxious to interest a number of other countries in the project, and will be giving them information about it soon and discussing the aircraft performance in relation to their future requirements.

Mr. Goodhew

Can the right hon. Gentleman help the House? In April, 1965 he said that it would take five Buccaneers to deliver the same load of bombs as one F.111 A. Can he tell us how many of these A.F.V.G. aircraft are likely to be required to deliver the same load of bombs?

Mr. Healey

Not without notice, but I would imagine about two.

Mr. Atkins

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether the agreement to proceed with this aeroplane which is to be made with the French in April will depend on the number of export inquiries received?

Mr. Healey

No, not at all.

Mr. Rankin

Would the number of Buccaneers required to deliver the bombs not depend on the place where the bombs were to be delivered? Could my right hon. Friend guide us on that point?

Mr. Healey

The range-payload of aircraft is something which can be quantified, irrespective of the scenarios which one has in mind.

15. Mr. Marten

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if there will be a review of the Anglo-French variable geometry project in December, 1967 to decide whether or not to go ahead with it; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Healey

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Technology, in an Answer yesterday, has already given the time-table for the development of this aircraft. It is normal practice to review development projects on completion of the project study but, subject to the satisfactory outcome of this study, we shall go ahead with the aircraft.

Mr. Marten

In a reply earlier this afternoon, the Minister said that the project did not depend upon exports. If we do not get the export orders, does it mean that the cost will rise? If the cost rises, and the French unhappily decide not to go on with it, have we a contingency plan to take its place, as the French have?

Mr. Healey

The costs of this aircraft agreed by the British and French Governments are not calculated on the basis that there will be export orders, but on the basis of the British and French orders alone. On the second question, we have contingency plans for all circumstances.

Mr. Dalyell

Can the Minister say anything about the visit of General Steinholz and his German colleagues to negotiate about this?

Mr. Healey

I am not aware of any such visit. What I can say, and as I have indicated earlier this afternoon, is that a joint British and French team will be visiting Holland and Germany in the next few days to discuss the possible operational requirements of those countries to see if any adjustments can be made in the agreed specification in order to maximise the sales prospects.

Mr. David Howell

Would the Minister not agree that if the Germans are to produce this aircraft, it is absolutely essential that they should participate in the benefits of development as well?

Mr. Healey

That is not absolutely essential. That is, in any case, a matter for the German Government, if I may say so, and not for me. We would welcome participation by other countries in the development and possibly production of the project. But it is a very nice question of judgment at what stage in development the participation of third parties would be to the advantage of all. This is a matter on which the French Government and ourselves must keep a very close watch.

32. Mr. Hamling

asked the Secretary of State for Defence the present estimated cost to the British taxpayer of the joint Anglo-French project for a variable geometry aircraft.

Mr. Healey

It is too early yet for decisions to be taken on the number of aircraft to be ordered.

Mr. Hamling

Would my right hon. Friend tell the House the terms of the mathematical law of progression in relation to contracts of this type?

Mr. Healey

All I can assure my hon. Friend is that whatever the law was under the Conservative Administration, it will be very much more satisfactory to the taxpayer under the present Administration.

Mr. Kershaw

Would the right hon. Gentleman accept the figure given in newspapers of £1½ million for each of these aircraft?

Mr. Healey

I would say that that is broadly the right order of cost, though it would not be right for me to give a specific estimate at this stage.