HC Deb 23 November 1993 vol 233 cc309-10
1. Mrs. Browning

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will announce the latest defence export orders won by British defence companies this year.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Jonathan Aitken)

The most recent major export order was the sale of Warrior armoured vehicles by GKN to Kuwait. With this and other major orders, it is now clear that this year's defence export performance will exceed even last year's record-breaking figure of £5.2 billion.

Mrs. Browning

I welcome my hon. Friend's reply. He will be aware of the importance of the defence industry to the west country. Will the Government give whatever support they can to Westland Helicopters, which was recently disappointed by the loss of the order for the EH101 helicopter from the new Liberal Government in Canada? It is an important industry, so will my hon. Friend do all that he can to sell these helicopters, both abroad and at home?

Mr. Aitken

I am well aware from the persuasive advocacy of my hon. Friend and many other Members on both sides of the House that Westland is extremely well regarded, and rightly so. As for future orders, at home we are making some progress internally on this matter, but all that I can say to my hon. Friend is watch this space.

Mr. David Clark

Bearing in mind the fact that any contract gained by fraud is itself fraudulent, and following the conviction of Gordon Foxley, will the Minister terminate the contract of the three foreign companies named in that court case—Fratelli, Raufoss and Junghans—and award the work to the royal ordnance factories, which would have won the original order if it had not been for fraud in his Department?

Mr. Aitken

I share the hon. Gentleman's sense of concern and outrage about the events to which he referred. They are deplorable. They happened some years ago—Mr. Foxley having retired in 1984—but there are still some current issues. We will not be placing new contracts with the firms concerned until all the facts have been fully investigated in the light of the current appeal. We are reviewing what scope there is to recover the money paid by those firms to Mr. Foxley and are urgently examining the legal position on that and a number of other related matters. We are at one with the Opposition that it is a deplorable matter and we will take steps to remedy it as far as we can.

Mr. Burns

Does my hon. Friend accept that areas such as Chelmsford are heavily reliant on defence orders and have an excellent record of exporting first-class products and services? Does he agree that there would be substantial job losses if we were to adopt the policy of a 50 per cent. cut in the defence budget between now and the end of the century, as advocated by the Liberal Democrats? [Interruption.]

Mr. Aitken

My hon. Friend has hit the bull's eye, judging by the indignation coming from the Opposition Front Bench. He is right to stress the importance of the defence industry to many towns, including Chelmsford, which he so ably represents. I concur with his view that the policy of massive defence cuts advocated by both Opposition parties would result in severe job losses throughout the realm.

Back to