HC Deb 20 March 1973 vol 853 cc225-6
18. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the possible purchase of the Lance and TOW weapon systems for the British Army.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

We are carefully considering, with our European allies, the purchase of Lance as a successor to Honest John. We have no plans to purchase TOW.

Mr. Wall

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. As he will know, I have been pressing for this for the last seven years. Can he give the House an indication of how long the negotiations are likely to take? Can he say what weapon of the same calibre other than TOW is available for the British Forces?

Mr. Gilmour

I cannot answer my hon. Friend's first question exactly, but I do not expect the negotiations to take very long. Secondly, as my hon. Friend knows we are developing Hawkswing.

Mr. Wilkinson

May I remind my hon. Friend of the very great importance of helicopter-launched anti-tank missiles? Their importance was found by the United States in the Kontum battle at the conclusion of the Vietnam war. Would it not be true to say that TOW, bought off the shelf, would be an extremely cost-effective weapon for this purpose and that some of our European allies are actively considering it?

Mr. Gilmour

I agree with what my hon. Friend says about the importance of this sort of weapon. However, we evaluated TOW some years ago and came to the conclusion that it did not meet our requirements. This is why we have been proceeding with our development of Hawkswing.