HC Deb 22 July 1975 vol 896 cc282-3
13. Mr. Blaker

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give further details of the guidelines laid down by the NATO Defence Ministers on the adoption of a long-range defence concept.

Mr. Mason

I would refer the hon. Member of the annex to the communiqué issued after the NATO Defence Planning Committee ministerial meeting on 22nd and 23rd May which is available in the Library of the House.

Mr. Blaker

Is it the desire of the NATO Defence Ministers as a whole to agree on a long-range defence concept connected with the production, harmonising and standardising of weapons procurement? If so, how is it related to the decision of the Eurogroup Defence Ministers in 1972 to agree on tactical concepts?

Mr. Mason

The hon. Gentleman is right on the first point. We shall now have to be more keen than before in using our resources more sensibly and wisely. Therefore, rationalisation and standardisation and greater co-operative efforts between the NATO nations is more than ever necessary.

Secondly, because of the rethinking on the long-range defence concept, we must bear in mind that because of the sophistication of new weaponry and the longer time scales before it goes into production and development, instead of planning on a seven-year cycle we must plan for much longer.

Mr. Dalyell

On the question of greater co-operative effort, in the light of the Belgian decision on the F16 and the well-known future problems of Dassault, what is the thinking of the Ministry of Defence about involving the French in, at any rate, the next stage of the multi-rôle combat aircraft?

Mr. Mason

I do not know to what extent the French would be interested in the MRCA, but we are particularly keen to involve them in the activities of the Eurogroup. There is a chair available for the French Government to become involved. From then on they would be involved in the co-operative efforts of the Eurogroup nations which are particularly keen to develop the standardisation of weaponry in Europe.