HC Deb 20 February 1973 vol 851 cc209-11
13. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Minister of State for Defence what progress has been made towards the agreement on common operational requirements for weapons systems in Western Europe.

9. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of State for Defence what progress is being made in the standardisation of defence equipment for European NATO countries.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

We and our allies have undertaken to launch no major new equipment programmes without determined efforts to agree common requirements and co-operative procurement. A number of projects, still at the formative stage, are under discussion and in some cases an important measure of agreement has already been reached with our European allies.

Mr. Tebbit

Does my hon. Friend agree that if Europe is to become capable of defending itself independently and at reasonable cost, a common requirements system is an absolute necessity? Will he lose no opportunity to make it plain to our Armed Services that they should think seriously about whether they will get any of the equipment they want unless they can agree upon common operational requirements?

Mr. Gilmour

I would largely agree with my hon. Friend, as will the Services, because, faced with increasing costs and shorter production runs, it is obviously not only sensible but essential to increase collaboration among allies.

Mr. John Morris

What thought has been given, for example, to successes of the Chieftain tank in this country and the Leopard in Germany? Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that one of the major stumbling blocks has been the difference in philosophy in this country on armaments and in Germany on mobility? Will he ensure that the general staff, certainly in this country, are made deeply aware that there will be a strict limitation of the money that is available unless they come to terms with the operational requirements of other countries in Europe?

Mr. Gilmour

The right hon. Gentle man is perfectly right. There have been differences of approach on various equipments between us and other countries. But the general staff and other staffs do not need any telling that collaboration is the best way of securing these equipments in the future, and they are well aware of this.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Does my hon. Friend realise that with such collaboration it might take even longer to get equipment and that if it takes even longer to get something like the Harrier we shall never get it at all?

Mr. Gilmour

Collaboration has its snags and disadvantages, but they are nothing like as great as the advantages to be gained from it.