§ 20. Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)
If he will make a statement on the future of the Archer project. 
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Spellar)
I am pleased to announce that we have now signed a contract worth £185 million with the Bowman prime contractor, Archer Communications Systems Ltd., for the next stage of the Bowman programme. This will cover further risk reduction work, the completion of system definition, initial system integration and initial conversion planning. Subject to satisfactory progress by Archer, it is intended to place a production contract in late 1999. This marks a major commitment by the Ministry of Defence to Archer and to the delivery of the Bowman system.
§ Mr. Gapes
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Will he consider the remarks that I made in the debate on the 553 strategic defence review last week about the award of the local area sub-system contract to Thomson rather than to British Aerospace? That has caused some unhappiness in my constituency, where we have excellent facilities and where people are willing to play a full part in the future of the Archer programme as it develops. I hope that the Government will support the future development of the facility in Ilford.
§ Mr. Spellar
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his assiduous lobbying on behalf of the plant in Ilford and his constituents. British Aerospace and Racal are not only the prime contractors, but were involved in the local area sub-system competition. Therefore, it is fair to say that they would have made a proper evaluation on technical grounds and in terms of value for money. The excellent manufacturing facility in my hon. Friend's constituency is well recognised not only by us, but by the manufacturers.