§ 11. Mr. Robert Atkins
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the current status of the experimental aircraft project.
§ The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Geoffrey Pattie)
The experimental aircraft programme is a joint venture by the Ministry of Defence and industry to bring together and demonstrate in one aircraft specific advanced technologies which will be applicable to a variety of future aircraft. The first phase of this technology demonstrator programme covers construction of the aircraft and its first flight, which is expected to be in 1986. The programme is proceeding according to plan.
§ Mr. Atkins
I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Is he aware that while the work forces in the military aircraft division of British Aerospace and its major subcontractors are well satisfied with the lead given by the Government, especially by the Minister in fighting for his corner about this important aeroplane, the importance of this project strategically and for the defence industry cannot be over-exaggerated? Will he continue to press most strongly alongside his Foreign Office colleagues to persuade the French, the Germans, the Spanish and the Italians, and 732 whoever else may participate in this collaborative programme, to take early and urgent decisions to get the aircraft flying?
§ Mr. Pattie
I can reassure my hon. Friend on that score. Both he and the House will wish to know that the air staffs of the countries to which he referred are at present consulting closely together to ensure that they have a common requirement.
§ Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that a firm commitment to the aircraft by Britain could act as a powerful stimulus to other countries to make a similar commitment and would also assist in marketing the aircraft?