HC Deb 20 January 1981 vol 997 cc140-1
11. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is now the total estimated cost of the Tornado programme; and how this compares with the original estimate at constant prices.

Mr. Pattie

The total production cost to the United Kingdom of an order for 220 production GR mark Is and 165 production F2s is now estimated to be £4,870 million at September 1980 price levels. At constant price levels the real increase in the estimated unit production costs of the GR mark I since the start of full development in May 1970 is about 25 per cent. and of the F2, which entered full development in July 1976, about 6 per cent.

Mr. Hooley

Do not reports from Germany seem to indicate that the cost of this machine is getting out of control? Are not the Government aware that it is quite absurd to suppose that the United Kingdom economy can carry the Tornado, the North Atlantic and protection of the Trident, BAOR, and protection of the air in Western Europe?

Mr. Pattie

It is interesting to note that, when a similar question was asked by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), the figures were 22 per cent. and 2 per cent. respectively. I think that that is more than two years ago, which indicates that the programme is by no means out of control. The Germans have had budgetary difficulties of their own.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there is no threat whatever to the production of Tornado either from the West German Government, or, indeed, his own Department, and that it will come on stream, as originally planned, in due course?

Mr. Pattie

Yes, I can confirm that.

Mr. Haynes

Are not the Secretary of State and his Ministers ashamed of the answer that we have just received? Bearing in mind that the right hon. Gentleman has recently come from a Department which has had business people knocking on the door for financial help to create jobs and to bring down unemployment—which was the promise which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues made in the pre-election period—what does he intend to do about it?

Mr. Pattie

We shall continue with the programme for this excellent aircraft, which supplies many thousands of jobs in advanced British industries.

Mr. Wilkinson

Does my hon. Friend agree that never in post-war Royal Air Force history has a single airframe been developed to fulfil such a wide multiplicity of roles? In those circumstances, is not it a great tribute to the design expertise of the industry and the versatility of the aircraft that it is as effective as it has proved to be in its service and testing to date?

Mr. Pattie

I welcome the opportunity to associate the Government with the remarks my hon. Friend has just made.

Mr. Snape

Are the Secretary of State and his ministerial team interested only in deluding themselves, or do they intend to delude the whole House? Can this country really afford projects such as Trident, the ECA and various expensive navy projects about which we have heard from the Minister, as well as paying for almost 400 of these extremely expensive aircraft? The Minister knows full well that something in that budget must go. Is it not about time that he came clean and told the house exactly where the Government's defence priorities lie?

Mr. Pattie

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. Friend intends to make a statement at 3.30 pm if he succeeds in catching the eye of the Chair.