HC Deb 18 December 1968 vol 775 cc1361-2
14. Mr. Dodds-Parker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made in the project for the Anglo-German multi-purpose military aircraft.

Mr. Healey

The position reached by the United Kingdom, Germany, Holland and Italy on a multi-role combat aircraft project, was explained by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Technology in reply to Questions on 27th November, 1968. I have nothing to add.—[Vol. 774, c. 469–70.]

Mr. Dodds-Parker

Is it not time that the Minister of Defence took urgent action to fill the gap which will appear in the Air Force defences in view of the cancellation of the TSR2 and the misjudgment by the Government over the Phantom and the F111?

Mr. Healey

The misjudgment on the Phantom was the previous Government's decision to produce the 1154 as a maritime aircraft before they discovered that the law of gravity applied to such aircraft as well as to land aircraft. If I may answer the serious part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, we have, as I have told the House repeatedly, been working continuously on this problem for the last 12 months, but we are convinced that it is highly desirable that we should seek to fill the gap in common with our European allies in filling a similar gap in their own air forces. We have made substantial pro- gress in this direction, and I hope that the feasibility study will be completed within a month from now.

Mr. Rippon

Will the Secretary of State now answer the Question which I put to him in the debate on Monday to which he did not reply, as to whether or not there is any truth in the report that there are two designs, one aircraft to be built in this country and a different one in Germany? Will he confirm whether or not this is true, and also answer the question put earlier by my hon. Friend as to whether in any circumstances we would consider going ahead with this aircraft ourselves, if necessary on our own?

Mr. Healey

Of course we would consider going ahead on our own if it were impossible to produce a common European aircraft, but I have every hope that we shall succeed in the venture. On the first question, the Jaguar aircraft is being produced in Britain and France in five versions, and it is being produced 33 months after development started. This is an example of what can be done by collaboration between countries. There will no doubt be more than one version of the multi-role combat aircraft as well; indeed, the name multi-role combat aircraft rather suggests that there might be more than one version.