HC Deb 26 January 1988 vol 126 c155
3. Mr. Fatchett

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on progress in ordering Challenger tanks.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Tim Sainsbury)

The order for the 5th Challenger regiment will be completed shortly. Current orders will also provide Challenger tanks for the 6th and 7th Challenger regiments. Further possible tank requirements are under review.

Mr. Fatchett

Will the Minister confirm that the Army has expressed a preference for the Challenger tank? If so, when will the Ministry give the go-ahead for that order? If such a go-ahead is given, will the Ministry of Defence give a commitment that the work will be carried out by Vickers in Leeds?

Mr. Sainsbury

As I have just said, we are currently considering the need for further orders. We have under review a variety of options as to which tank would be a suitable replacement and when further tank orders should be placed.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise the importance of this programme to the city of Nottingham, because Royal Ordnance plc has a major unit in my constituency employing 1,100 people. That factory is in an area that still, sadly, has a high level of unemployment. Will he bear that in mind when considering procurement plans now and in the future?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure my hon. Friend that we shall certainly bear in mind the matter that he has raised.

Mr. Marlow

As studies have shown that we can stop many more tanks for our bucks with helicopters than we can with tanks, is it not time that my hon. Friend discovered for himself a new Liddell Hart, so that somebody can do for the antediluvian and outdated tank what he did for the horse?

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend will recall that last July I answered a question from him on this subject. I confirm that our latest examination of the issue shows that a variety of anti-armour weapon systems are cost effective.