HL Deb 21 December 1965 vol 271 cc966-8

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Champion stated that he would be making the Statement on Lightnings for Saudi Arabia, since it was not certain that I should be able to attend your Lordships' House. Now, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to intervene to repeat the Statement, which is being made by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation in another place, on Lightnings for Saudi Arabia. The Statement is as follows:

"I have to tell the House that the Government of Saudi Arabia have this morning announced that a consortium of British firms has secured the major part of the order for their new complete Air Defence System. The remainder of the system will be provided by American firms and we have had valuable co-operation from the U.S. Administration in formulating the joint programme.

"The value of the British components in the order, including Lightning and Jet Provost aircraft, radar and data-handling equipment, is over £100 million, from which over £75 million will accrue to this country as export earnings.

"This is a great achievement for the three British firms concerned—namely, the British Aircraft Corporation Limited, Associated Electrical Industries Limited, and Airwork Services Limited, and it demonstrates that our aircraft and electronics industries have really first-class equipment to offer.

"The American firm of Raytheon will be supplying the Hawk surface-to-air anti-aircraft missile.

"During the past twelve months the British firms have acted in close cooperation with my Department—that is, the Ministry of Aviation—and have received our active support. The success of these negotiations has demonstrated conclusively the results which can be achieved with such co-operation.

"A number of other countries have already expressed interest in the Lightning aircraft and the radar equipment and I have great hopes that further orders will be obtained."


My Lords, I am sure the House is grateful to the noble Lord for conveying to the House this very welcome information and, indeed, for the tribute he paid to what has been achieved by three companies engaged in private enterprise.


My Lords, might I congratulate the Government on getting this contract? I led a delegation this year meeting King Feisal and the Saudi Arabian Defence Minister, which discussed this matter; and I am glad to learn that, in spite of all the competition, we have succeeded in getting such a reward for our endeavours.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount. This represents a good example of co-operation in Government and private enterprise. I should like to pay a tribute to the officials in the Ministry of Aviation—I have already paid tribute to the firms—and in particular to my colleague Mr. John Stonehouse, who I know played a very big part in landing this order. At the same time—and I am not just here to hand out bouquets—I would acknowledge the part that my noble friend Lord Blyton and his delegation played. It demonstrates the value of the sort of contacts that it is possible for a delegation such as Lord Blyton's to achieve.


My Lords, is this not clear evidence that the British aircraft industry is capable of fending for itself, without needing the dead hand of nationalisation to help it out? Since there is no answer, may I take it that the noble Lord agrees with me?


The noble Duke w as determined to get me to my feet. His point does not arise on this Statement at all, and I certainly do not agree with the implications of what he said.