HC Deb 22 March 1988 vol 130 cc191-2
14. Sir John Farr

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he is able to give a firm date when he expects production of the European fighter aircraft to commence in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Sainsbury

Production of the European fighter aircraft is expected to commence in all four countries in the early 1990s, subject to international agreement to the launch of the intervening phases.

Sir John Farr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, but will he assure the House that he is aware of the fact that an American team is in this country trying to sell Britain an updated version of one of its fighter aircraft? Can he assure the House that he recognises how important it is to British industry that the European fighter aircraft goes ahead?

Mr. Sainsbury

I assure my hon. Friend that I am well aware of the importance of the European fighter aircraft to British industry. It is only to be expected that in the runup to such a major procurement decision there will be intense lobbying from rival aerospace camps. I am confident that the case for the European fighter aircraft will prove sufficiently robust to withstand comparison with all the alternative options, including the updated F18.

Mr. Cryer

Should we not be concentrating resources on civilian aircraft production instead of embarking on another massive expenditure such as the Tornado, the biggest peacetime expenditure in the history of this country? Why do we need to spend all this money on these massively sophisticated aircraft, which seem to keep falling out of the sky, at enormous cost as well? Would it not be better to get a licence for single-seater Cessna production from the United States, as this seems to be the type of aircraft that can get to Red Square, if that is what the hon. Gentleman wants.

Mr. Sainsbury

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will, like most hon. Members, attach high importance to the protection of United Kingdom air space. I can assure him that the European fighter aircraft will be a very effective and substantial contribution to that protection.