HC Deb 26 January 1988 vol 126 cc164-5
13. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he has any plans to reduce the Royal Air Force current requirement for the European fighter aircraft.

Mr. Sainsbury

As I told the hon. Member on 8 December 1987, it is too early in the project to forecast with certainty the eventual size of the United Kingdom purchase of European fighter aircraft. The work-sharing agreement is, however, based on the declared requirement for 250 aircraft.

Mr. Ross

The Minister will accept that his failure to commit the Government to 260 fighters, which the RAF says it requires, has serious employment consequences for those who will participate in the programme. When will he be able to guarantee that he intends to protect those 260 orders within the present defence review?

Mr. Sainsbury

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that it would be neither normal nor sensible to place a firm order until after the project definition stage has been completed and there is a design of an aircraft to order and also, by that time, a reasonably firm estimate of the cost.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will my hon. Friend, in any negotiations, guard contractually against a situation where one of the other parties places a larger initial order than he intends to take delivery of, so that he gets a larger percentage of the work? This is grossly unfair to the other parties to the agreement.

Mr. Sainsbury

My hon. Friend raises an important point. I can assure him that the work-share agreement for the production phase will be based on the declared orders at that time and not on the declared orders at the project definition stage.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Minister ensure that, in the final requirements laid down for this aircraft, the radar installed will be European, and preferably British?

Mr. Sainsbury

We must await the outcome of the present competitive tendering exercise, but the United Kingdom is strongly represented in both the bidding consortia for the aircraft's radar.