HC Deb 24 February 1987 vol 111 cc131-2
14. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what recent representations he has received from trade unions about orders for fighter aircraft; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

None, Sir.

Mr. Brown

Obviously I am opposed to the arms race, but will the Minister agree to meet shop stewards and other trade union representatives from Ferranti to discuss this matter, because it is a very important issue in Leith and in many parts of Britain? Will he agree to meet the shop stewards and trade union representatives?

Mr. Hamilton

I am always more than prepared to meet trade union representatives. I was at Ferranti in Edinburgh quite recently. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman's constituents have impressed upon him the need to have an up-to-date European fighter to meet the Soviet threat, because the impression given by the hon. Gentleman is that he would welcome it.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Has my hon. Friend received any representations from the trade unions regarding an interim engine for the future European fighter aircraft? Can he confirm that he would regard it as intolerable that the United Kingdom, German and Italian forces should choose an aeroplane powered by an American engine when we want the RB199?

Mr. Hamilton

I accept my hon. Friend's point. It is the Government's objective that there should be a British engine in the fighter.

Mr. McNamara

What progress has been made with the European fighter aircraft, especially as the experimental aircraft programme has been grounded through lack of Government funding? When will development work begin? Can we be assured that there will be no further delay, especially as we know that the Germans are re-winging Phantom so that it will be operational beyond 1995? Doubts are therefore put over German co-operation in the project. If we do not get the EFA, will the RAF end up with the F18 orders?

Mr. Hamilton

As a participating country, the United Kingdom agreed with Germany, Italy and Spain in August 1985 to proceed with the project definition phase. The industries in those nations embarked on a study in September 1985 and that was completed in September last year. The project definition reports from industry are now being evaluated and we hope to be able to make a decision before very long.