HC Deb 10 May 1999 vol 331 cc1-3
1. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South)

What plans he has to use the experience and data acquired from the current air campaign over Yugoslavia to assist in the drawing up of criteria for future defence procurement contracts. [82578]

The Parliamentary UnderSecretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Spellar)

Decisions about our future equipment programme, and the best way to procure that equipment, are based on a wide range of information, including data drawn from operational experience. We are taking steps to acquire accurate data from the current air campaign to provide a sound basis for future analysis. The results of that analysis will be used as a guide in the determination of future capability requirements.

Mr. Marsden

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that one of the lessons of the current conflict is the need for our forces to be at the cutting edge of technology, collaborating as much as possible with our European partners, and that that applies to air-to-air missiles as well as to air-to-ground missiles? In that context, may I especially commend to him the programme currently being developed by British Aerospace for the Meteor missile? I believe—as do many of my constituents who are employed by British Aerospace—that that programme will give Eurofighter great capacity; it will give us air strength, and enable us to carry forward our cutting-edge technology in defence procurement.

Mr. Spellar

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign on behalf of his constituents and the most important work that they undertake for our defence needs. He will be aware that proposals were received in May 1998 on the BVRAAM—beyond visual range-air-to-air missile—capability. We are holding discussions with our potential partners in Europe—Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden—on those proposals, and we are holding separate discussions with the United States. A contract to proceed to full development and production is expected to be awarded towards the end of 1999. All factors—operational, financial and industrial—will be taken into account in reaching our decision.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the experiences that has been learned from the campaign in Yugoslavia is that air power alone is not an effective way to induce an adversary to relinquish territory? Moreover, it kills many non-combatants.

Mr. Spellar

First, we go to inordinate lengths to avoid collateral damage and civilian casualties. The experience of the war clearly demonstrates that. Secondly, the right hon. and learned Gentleman should not talk down the effect of our air campaign, which has significantly degraded the military capability of the Yugoslav armed forces and their armed police and paramilitary assistants. We have made a considerable impact on their operational capability, communications and command and control. That is starting to have a significant impact.

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