8. Mr. Robert Ainsworth
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects the development stage of the Eurofighter project to be completed.
§ Mr. Aitken
The development stage of Eurofighter 2000 will largely be completed by 1995, when the production stage is due to begin. However, as is usual with new aircraft, some development activity will continue into the early years of production. It is expected that the final phase of the development stage will be completed in 2001.
Is the Minister aware of the consternation that was caused in the industry when he announced the delays in the programme on 25 February? Will he give the House an explanation of the escalation of the costs that was announced then? How much of that escalation was caused by his Department's late changes to the specification?
§ Mr. Aitken
The hon. Gentleman is being somewhat unfair and churlish. The real increase in development costs since we committed ourselves to this phase in 1988 is a little more than 10 per cent. For the project as a whole, it is a little less than 10 per cent. Production costs are all hypothetical at this stage, but a 10 per cent. increase in a project of this complexity and magnitude, although not welcome, is by no means unusual. It is within the normal tolerances. As for the hon. Gentleman's points about delays, those are matters caused by some of the industrial decisions—not Government decisions. The Government could not have done more to support the project whole-heartedly and effectively.
§ Mr. Martlew
Is not it a fact that 10 per cent. represents £250 million, which will have to come from somewhere else in the defence estimates? Yesterday, the Minister gave us an assurance that the Eurofighter would make its test flight this year. We welcome that. But he was vague on how the work would be shared out between the countries. It looks as if the Royal Air Force will place orders for 50 per cent. of the production. Does that mean that 50 per cent. of the work will be carried out in United Kingdom factories?
§ Mr. Aitken
On the work-share point, the hon. Gentleman's questions are premature at this stage, because no decisions have yet been reached between the four partners on precisely which numbers will be used in the production phase. Development work-shares were agreed in 1988 and ours was 33 per cent. There is no suggestion that those should change, but, ultimately, they will depend on the final orders placed by each of the partners.