HC Deb 15 July 1971 vol 821 cc706-7
17. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of State for Defence what estimate he has now made of Harrier trials on the "Ark Royal".

39. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the outcome of the recent trials of Harrier aircraft of the Royal Air Force embarked upon H.M.S. "Ark Royal" ; and what new assessment he has made as a result of the capability of the Royal Air Force to conduct air operations in support of the Fleet.

Mr. Kirk

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) on 17th June.—[Vol. 819, c. 122–3.]

Mr. Dalyell

What Harrier programme is now envisaged?

Mr. Kirk

We are evaluating the results of the "Ark Royal" trials, and in the light of those we shall take our decision on any maritime use of the Harrier.

Mr. Wilkinson

Do not recent events in the Mediterranean and the marked political instability in that area show the need for integral air cover for the Fleet? If that is the case, is it not about time that my hon. Friends got on with the task of providing such cover because, without it, many experts on this side of the House agree, as do naval friends, that the Fleet will be virtually defenceless in face of hostile air attack?

Mr. Kirk

Experts on both sides of the House disagree on this sort of matter. I am sure my hon. Friend would not wish us to embark on a major spending programme until we have evaluated the results of the trials.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Would my hon. Friend agree that, apart from the military considerations, it is desirable to increase as quickly as possible our exports of this remarkable aircraft, and can he say when the Ministry will begin to reach a conclusion after some 10 years of trials?

Mr. Kirk

We are all in favour of increasing exports of military potential.