HC Deb 09 November 1976 vol 919 cc206-7
15. Mr. John Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he remains satisfied with the performance of the Chieftain tank.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Watkinson

Will my hon. Friend reconsider the answer given by his right hon. Friend earlier and enlarge upon the question whether the Chobham armour was given away free to our allies? Will be also say whether British tank gun technology will be given a fair opportunity to prove itself in the trials for the new American and German tanks?

Mr. Brown

The information on the Chobham armour was given to two allies, as is customary in an alliance. As for British tank units, I would say that the 120mm Chieftain gun is the finest tank gun in the world, and we have no intention of replacing it on the Chieftain. But in the gun trials in America this year we shall certainly have every opportunity to get in on the new weapons.

Mr. Wall

Is it a fact that Chieftain tanks being supplied to Iran are to have new engines and Chobham armour? If so, when will these be fitted to British Chieftain tanks in the Army of the Rhine?

Mr. Brown

There is a later Question on that subject.

Mr. Hardy

As for the Chobham armour, which was the subject of the story that appeared in The Sunday Times at the weekend, will my hon. Friend invite the Opposition Front Bench to explain to the House and to the country why they so carelessly gave away secrets that could be extremely valuable?

Mr. Brown

I am sure the Opposition will have heard that suggestion from my hon. Friend.

Mr. Onslow

Will the Minister do the House the courtesy of reminding the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) that if he had been in the Chamber when this matter came up earlier he would have heard it explained that the first exchange was in 1965 and the second in 1968? Will the hon. Gentleman give the House the assurance that he wishes to see full and fair competition, which gives us the best possible chance of keeping in this tank business, with our excellent capabilities?

Mr. Brown

Of course, I agree with what the hon. Gentleman said in the latter part of his remarks. But he talks about 1965 and 1968. Although there certainly was an exchange—a discussion—no detailed information was given before 1972.