HC Deb 01 December 1997 vol 302 cc10-1
10. Mr. Wilkinson

What assessment he has made of the adequacy of heavy lift transport aircraft in Royal Air Force service. [16804]

Dr. Reid

Our strategic lift requirements, in terms both of air lift and of sea lift, are being scrutinised closely in the strategic defence review, which aims to ensure that our armed forces are properly equipped to undertake their tasks. That scrutiny is, of course, informed by my Department's assessment of the adequacy of our currently available assets.

Mr. Wilkinson

I am grateful for that answer. In peace maintenance as in war fighting, is it not important to get to the critical spot firstest with the mostest, particularly when the United Kingdom is increasingly withdrawing from overseas bases? Will the Minister therefore assure the House that, after the review, the RAF will be able to procure at the earliest possible date a proven aircraft—the C17, which can carry a main battle tank and has been an admirable aeroplane in the United States air force?

Dr. Reid

The hon. Gentleman, who is well known for his interest and expertise in these matters, is absolutely right about the nature of the threats we now face. The old simplicities and certainties of the cold war have gone. We live in a more volatile, less predictable world and our ability to react quickly is paramount. It is also important that we have a variety of equipment, which the RAF cannot, at present, move by air. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been at pains to make that point. Several options merit consideration, including, perhaps, the future large aircraft and C17.

Mr. McCabe

When considering the future of RAF heavy lift, will my hon. Friend ensure that adequate attention is paid to preserving aircraft that have served us well, particularly as we approach the millennium?

Dr. Reid

That is absolutely correct. I am pleased to say that, today, I presented a charter mark award to the RAF museum, which has played such an important role in maintaining and exhibiting our RAF heritage. I am also pleased to tell the House that, Treasury and Parliament permitting, as of today the RAF intends to pass the ownership of the vast majority—121 out of 122—of its historic aeroplanes to the RAF museum, thus showing our confidence in it and our commitment, as we approach the millennium, to retaining the heritage of past generations of the RAF for future generations.

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