HC Deb 16 October 1973 vol 861 cc6-7
7. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether he is now able to announce a decision on the development of a naval version of the Harrier aircraft.

8. Mr. Warren

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the funding of Harrier aircraft for the Royal Navy.

3. Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future employment of V/STOL aircraft in the Royal Navy.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

I have nothing to add to the statement which I made on 23rd July.—[Vol. 860, c. 1171–5.]

Mr. Wilkinson

Is this deeply disappointing delay due to pressures from the Treasury to cut public expenditure or to influences within my right hon. Friend's own Department which seek to get funding of a more advanced version of the aeroplane on a joint basis with the Americans? Is my right hon. Friend aware that unless the through-deck cruisers are equipped with fixed-wing V/STOL aircraft they will look singularly un-cost-effective?

Mr. Gilmour

I accept that the delay to which my hon. Friend refers is disappointing. The reason is, as I said in July, that the usual annual review of the forward defence programme is in progress and has not yet been completed. I do not accept that the efficacy of the through-deck cruiser depends upon the maritime Harrier. We always made it clear that we wished to go ahead with the through-deck cruiser irrespective of the maritime Harrier.

Mr. Warren

Can my right hon. Friend enlighten me on two specific points arising from his answer and previous answers on the subject? Does the delay arise at the request of the Treasury or at the request of his Department? Secondly, what is the sum of money involved in the programme at present?

Mr. Gilmour

My hon. Friend will appreciate that the state of the forward defence programme and Government expenditure in general is not a matter which is confined to any one Department. He will not expect me to answer the second part of his question.