HC Deb 20 March 1973 vol 853 cc211-2
4. Mr. Warren

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether the German, Italian and British Governments are each up to date on their schedule of payments for work in progress on the multi-rôle combat aircraft.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

The programme is funded by quarterly payments in advance. Contributions are currently up to date except for small sums due from each Government in respect of the current period.

Mr. Warren

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he tell the House what burdens of extra research and development costs will now fall upon the British taxpayer because the German requirement for the aircraft has dropped from the originally envisaged 800 to 322?

Mr. Gilmour

As I have told my hon. Friend before, the adjustment of work allotted to each country can be varied and is varied at each phase of development and, therefore, any variation in numbers is taken into account at that stage.

Mr. John Morris

Is the Minister in a position to assist us further? Is the project on schedule as regards the date of delivery? Do we expect to see the aeroplane by about 1976? Can he say what arrangements have been made for the joint training of pilots?

Mr. Gilmour

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the aircraft is due to come into service in the late 1970s. I should not like to be pinned down to any exact date. It is more or less on schedule as of now. There will be some joint training between the three countries, but I cannot expand on detailed arrangements at present.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I remind my hon. Friend of the commitment made to me yesterday by my hon. Friend the Undersecretary of State that this aeroplane is fundamental to the reorganisation plans of the Royal Air Force? Can my hon. Friend say precisely when the first prototype is likely to fly and whether there has been any change in the operational requirement for the aeroplane for the three parties which are to purchase it?

Mr. Gilmour

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding me about what was said yesterday. I remember it very well. There has been little change in the operational requirements for this aeroplane.