HC Deb 28 February 1995 vol 255 cc832-3
9. Mr. Win Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the role of RAF St. Athan and the maintenance of Tornado and other aircraft since 1983.

Mr. Freeman

RAF St. Athan provides overhaul, repair and manufacturing facilities for fixed-wing aircraft of all three services, and many of their mechanical, structural and engine components. Currently, Tornado accounts for around 48 per cent. of RAF St. Athan's work.

Mr. Griffiths

Will the Minister confirm that work done at RAF St. Athan by the company Airwork has cost a minimum of £300 million so far in botched and damaged Tornados? Will the Ministry receive compensation from the Bricom group? Was anyone in the RAF or the Ministry directly responsible for seeing that the work was properly done, and will anyone lose his job or be admonished?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Gentleman's estimate of the amount involved is wildly inaccurate. We have not yet costed the amount, and I would not be able to give the hon. Gentleman the figure if we had, because we intend to take legal proceedings against Bricom in connection with the work done by Airwork.

I am glad to say that the damage to the Tornado aircraft that has been identified is being rectified by British Aerospace, the cost being a mere fraction of the sum mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I am glad to say also that RAF St. Athan won the competition for the fatigue index at No. 25—a quarter of the way through the fatigue life—to repair about 100 of the remaining Tornados. I congratulate the service men and women involved, some of whom are the hon. Gentleman's constituents.

Mr. Mans

In the context of the maintenance and updating of Tornado aircraft, when will the midlife update programme be complete? Will the Minister also tell me, either today or in writing, what plans the RAF has to give the Tornado aircraft a stand-off capability?

Mr. Freeman

The hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) asked me about the F3 fighter aircraft, which are being repaired and maintained. My hon. Friend asks about the ground attack—the bomber version of the Tornado. I am happy to say that the midlife update programme is proceeding, is properly resourced and will extend the life of the aircraft for perhaps 15 or 20 years— at the end of which time we shall have to consider a future offensive aircraft. I hope very much that we shall be able to collaborate in part with, perhaps, the United States in the design and development of the aircraft.

The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) laughs, but the procurement of new and very expensive aircraft will require us to collaborate not only with the French and Germans—and as we are doing on Eurofighter—but with the Americans.