HC Deb 01 March 1967 vol 742 cc476-7
3. Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the current estimate of the final cost of each F.111 K aircraft to be purchased for the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Healey

I have nothing at present to add to the Answer I gave to the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Burden) on 18th January, 1967.—[Vol. 739, c. 59.]

Mr. Goodhew

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has been discussing this matter now for nearly 12 months and that it is somewhat suspicious to some of us on this side of the House that he has not been able to supply the information in time for the debate on this matter?

Mr. Healey

I am sorry about the suspicions of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. I shall give the House details of the cost at which we place the order for the following 40 aircraft.

Mr. Powell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we are all rather sorry for him today after his fiasco last night? Will he indicate firmly whether he will place this contract before the end of the month irrespective of whether a ceiling has been agreed, or will he only place it if a ceiling has been agreed?

Mr. Healey

Let me first say that my sorrow for the right hon. Gentleman is continuous, irrespective of the incidents of previous days. On the second part of his question, we shall not place a contract until we have the ceiling price agreed.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the whole of my party and a large number of hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House are opposed in principle to the ordering of the F.111 K, which we only see as having any use in theatres outside Europe? Is not this inconsistent with the declared aim of the Defence White Paper, that we shall never again have to undertake operations outside Europe on the scale of the Indonesian confrontation?

Mr. Healey

With respect, if that is the view of the hon. Gentleman he is mistaken. As I made clear in my speech last night, we shall need a replacement for the Canberras, the tactical strike and reconnaissance aircraft, whether we are east of Suez or not. This aircraft replaces the cancelled TSR2, designed by the previous Government primarily as an aircraft for use in the European theatre.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Secretary of State take the view that every aircraft has the right to reincarnation, and should there be a follow-up to every aircraft, regardless of rôle?

Mr. Healey

No, of course not, but at the same time there are certain basic functions which any aircraft must be able to fulfil, and reconnaissance and strike are among them.