HC Deb 12 June 1979 vol 968 cc226-8
19. Mr. Dickens

asked the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will take steps to underwrite the order for tanks placed by the previous Iranian Government to ensure their use by the British Army.

Mr. Hayhoe

We are giving urgent consideration to all the implications—and there are many—of the cancellation of the Iranian order for Shir tanks.

Mr. Dickens

Is my hon. Friend aware that, due to termination notices in my constituency, many skilled tank workers are likely to be put out of business unless the Government do something?

Mr. Hayhoe

The Government are fully aware of the employment implications of the cancellation of this order. Careful consideration is being given to these aspects of the matter.

Mr. Mulley

Cannot the Minister give a little more encouragement in response to this question? Are there no alternative possibilities? Before the general election I was aware of a number of other sales possibilities. I had hoped that by now something rather more positive could have been said.

Mr. Hayhoe

As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, there are other possibilities for sales. These are under consideration. It has been the practice of successive Governments not to give details of such orders when they are at this stage.

Mr. Churchill

Bearing in mind that last year the previous Administration placed in mothballs more than 10 per cent. of the operational Chieftain tanks of the British Army of the Rhine, can my hon. Friend say when he will be able to assure the House that these tanks are fully operational?

Mr. Hayhoe

If my hon. Friend will table that precise qustion, we shall certainly give him an answer. It has very little to do with the cancellation of the Iranian order.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Minister have a cost estimate of acceding to his hon. Friend's request, and, if not, why not?

Mr. Hayhoe

Not in reply to a question about the cancellation of the Iranian order.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Minister consult his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about what urgent action may be taken to deal with the cancellation of the Iranian order at Yarrow shipyard in view of the important employment implications on the Clyde?

Mr. Hayhoe

Urgent consideration is being given to all aspects of this cancellation. The employment consequences are, of course, one of the major considerations.