HC Deb 11 March 1980 vol 980 cc1127-8
1. Mr. Marlow

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will set out the programme for armoured fighting vehicle equipment.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. Barney Hayhoe)

Existing Chieftains are being updated and the modifications include a more reliable engine, an improved fire control system and more effective armour-piercing ammunition. Project definition studies are continuing on a new main battle tank. Part of the present range of tracked armoured personnel carriers is to be progressively replaced from the mid-1980s and a decision about the replacement will be made later this year. Other enhancements of our armoured capability are being considered.

Mr. Marlow

If the new Iranian Government use their best endeavours to deal with the hooligans—for some reason they are described by the BBC as students—who are holding the hostages in Iran, will we take action to proceed with the sale of tanks to that country? If we do, will that have any effect, either way, on the provision of AFVs for our own Armed Forces?

Mr. Hayhoe

There are no signs of any interest from Iran in reviving those orders, but if those signs became apparent, of course they would be given careful consideration.

Mr. Robert C. Brown

Is the Minister aware that 15 months ago the Army Board considered it a matter of urgency that 77 Chieftain tanks should be ordered to bring the war maintenance reserve for the British Army of the Rhine up to date? Is he aware that that order still has not been placed with Vickers on Tyneside? Why not?

Mr. Hayhoe

Of course I am aware of that decision, but matters have gone forward since that time. In the light of the growing threat from the Warsaw Pact countries we are considering the possibility of strengthening our existing armoured capability, and the purchase of additional tanks is under consideration.

Mr. Onslow

Which are the contenders for the armoured personnel carrier replacement order?

Mr. Hayhoe

The two main contenders are the MCV designed in this country and an IFV designed in the United States. A decision will be taken within the next few months.

Mr. Roper

With regard to the replacement of the armoured personnel carrier, has the Minister considered the possibility of producing the United States design in the United Kingdom? Will he assure us that there will be adequate armament on whichever one is chosen?

Mr. Hayhoe

In the event of the weight of operational requirements going towards the American design, consideration would be given to maintaining our own industrial capability by having as much manufacturing as possible done in this country. There are different philosophies about armament between the British and the Americans, and I think that our operational requirements differ.

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