HC Deb 11 February 1975 vol 886 cc187-8
10. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement on the future of the Marine Harrier.

Mr. William Rodgers

Not at the moment.

Mr. Watkinson

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that cancellation of this project would be a further body blow to the aircraft industry? Will he indicate the export potential of this aeroplane? Is it the case that other countries are waiting to see what we do before placing orders?

Mr. Rodgers

I fully understand the wish of the aircraft industry to see this project go ahead, and certainly it has considerable export potential. Design work is continuing, and we shall be completing a full and careful evaluation before deciding whether to go ahead.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that it is the wish not only of the aircraft industry but of the Royal Navy which should be taken into account?

Mr. Rodgers

The Royal Navy has said that it would be a useful additional capability. We recognise that.

Mr. Buck

The hon. Gentleman will concede that it is not only the Royal Navy which has said this. The whole Defence Staff has said that it would be a useful additional capability.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that not so many months ago he and his right hon. and hon. Friends were taxing the Conservative administration for not having made a decision about this? Some of us thought that there was substance in the suggestion that there had been a long delay. Is there not even less reason for delay now? Why will not the right hon. Gentleman make a decision?

Mr. Rodgers

To the best of my recollection, I have never taxed anyone about any delay. This is an important project. The more important it is, the more important it is that decisions are made in due time.