HC Deb 11 March 1980 vol 980 cc1128-30
3. Mr. Dykes

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he plans to initiate any discussions with his counterparts in the other EEC member States on European-wide collaboration in future military equipment projects including aircraft.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)

My right hon. Friend already has regular discussions about defence equipment collaboration with his European colleagues, and no further initiatives are planned at present.

Mr. Dykes

Following the success of the Tornado, will my hon. Friend say specifically whether any thought has been given, in the longer term, to a successor plane which would combine the merits and capabilities of the Jaguar and the Harrier in one European collaboration project?

Mr. Pattie

Yes. My hon. Friend may be aware that discussions are in progress between the Government and the Governments of Germany and France in an attempt to discover a satisfactory way forward to meet the task that he has described. However, I am sure that he will agree that it would be wrong for the Government to follow too slavishly the principle of collaboration without having due regard to important questions such as industrial property rights and the need not to diminish the effectiveness of British industry, on which our defence effort depends.

Mr. Jim Spicer

My hon. Friend will know of the disappointment that exists within the helicopter industries of France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom over the fact that the sum set aside by the EEC for research and development has not been taken up. Will he give an undertaking that this matter will be raised at an early Council of Ministers' meeting to see whether it can be expedited and the sum used for the purposes for which it was intended?

Mr. Pattie

I do not think that I am in a position to give my hon. Friend the undertaking that he seeks, but I undertake to consider the issue that he has raised and to write to him.

Mr. Robert Atkins

If we are unable to achieve agreement between, for example, Germany and France on the future development of a fighter aircraft such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) referred to, and if British Aerospace were to produce such an aircraft off its own bat, would my hon. Friend encourage sales of that aircraft to other countries, to the benefit of both our defence and industrial capability?

Mr. Pattie

I am sure that what my hon. Friend says must be right. Having regard to my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes), it is important for us to maintain an industrial capability.