HC Deb 04 March 1970 vol 797 cc400-1
23 Mr. Goodhew

asked the Secretary of State for Defence why he rejected the Martin-Baker Scheme to equip existing Vulcan bombers with ejection seats for the rear three crew members.

Mr. John Morris

To have adopted the Martin-Baker Scheme would have required a costly and lengthy programme for the major modification of aircraft.

In the light of a careful assessment of the probability of circumstances occurring during the remaining life of the V-force in which an ejection system for rear crew members might increase chances of survival, we did not consider that such a programme would be justified.

Mr. Goodhew

Since these aircraft are being pressed into service much longer than was originally expected, is the hon. Gentleman still insisting that for a few million pounds lives of bomber crews can be thrown away? If it were his life, would he want it risked, or is it just bomber crews who are expendable and not the Secretary of State?

Mr. Morris

These are some of the difficult decisions requiring to be taken by people who hold my office and by people who held similar positions in the past.

Mr. Robert Howarth

Will my hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) that these aircraft were in service well before this Government took office, so presumably his right hon. and hon. Friends were prepared to put up with a situation which he finds intolerable?

Mr. Morris

The House knows that this is a fact. We considered very deeply the whole of the implications of what might be done in view of further developments that have taken place and whether it would be proper to add the facility to which the hon. Gentleman referred. But when we looked at the likely contingency of the need for equipment against the loss of the operational effectiveness of the aircraft, in that a large number would have to be taken away from the front line, and also the premium that would be involved, this was the kind of difficult decision that I and my advisers had to take.