HC Deb 06 May 1970 vol 801 cc403-4
29. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has for purchasing helicopters from France and the United States of America.

Mr. Healey

The House has heard on several occasions about the Anglo-French helicopter package which is to provide the three Services with the helicopters they require. As the House will know, after reviewing their defence programme, the French have asked for some rearrangement of the helicopter programme, and their suggestions are now under review. It is our intention to secure a satisfactory settlement in view of the importance of the programme and the willingness which both Governments have expressed to see it through to a successful conclusion.

Mr. Goodhart

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why this important field of Anglo-French co-operation is now going sour? Is it because of the French refusal to buy British designs on chauvinistic national grounds, or because of our slowness in putting in firm production orders?

Mr. Healey

The programme is not going sour. The problem is quite different from either of the suggestions which the hon. Gentleman has made. The French Government are now carrying out a defence review of a nature which is all too familiar to us in the House, and it is the financial pressures arising from that review which have caused the French to review some elements of their requirements. I am hopeful that in the very near future we shall reach a satisfactory rearrangement of the programme which safeguards our industrial, no less than our operational, interests.

Mr. Snow

Would my right hon. Friend consider publishing in the OFFICIAL REPORT a table to show the extent to which we are able to fulfil from our own manufacturing resources our helicopter requirements of the different types?

Mr. Healey

I will consider that. I will not make any commitment before considering it. What I can tell the House now is that the powerful links which are being forged between the British and French helicopter industries are by far the best way by which Europe as a whole can guarantee a stake in this vitally important world market against severe American competition.