§ 3.13 p.m.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the present position regarding Anglo-French co-operation on military projects outside the collaborative ventures of our aero-space industries; and what prospects exist for co-operation in the sphere of naval equipment.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, in addition to the major joint aeronautical projects there is a wide and continuous exchange of views with the French on research and development matters of common interest. At the moment, however, there are few specific projects in the naval or Army spheres which appear to be ripe for joint development.
§ LORD MERRIVALE
My Lords, could the noble Lord expand the latter part of his reply? Can he say along what lines this desirable co-operation is proposed to be extended? Is it in electronics or armaments and so forth? Further, is the noble Lord aware that last Saturday the French Minister of Defence, M. Messmer, announced over the French radio, in reply to a question, that he expected agreement shortly on a collaborative venture in the sphere of naval equipment?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, first of all I should say that there is a continuous and very close link between the Navy and the Army of France and Great Britain; it is a continuous, close and frank exchange. I do not know to what item M. Messmer was specifically referring. It is certainly true that we have tried to reach agreement with the French on certain equipment; but our interests have not matched. However, we are in close touch upon a number of projects both in electronic fields and in the torpedo field, although final specifications have not been arrived at. I would mention another example of very close co-operation—helicopters; and two 1049 of them, the SA.340 and the WG.13, are primarily Army helicopters.
My Lords, as a keen supporter of Anglo-French cooperation on military projects and on wider Western European collaboration on military projects, could I ask the noble Lord whether the Anglo-French technical naval committees on equipment are still in existence and active? Also, am I right in inferring from his reply to my noble friend's supplementary question that there is a prospect of Anglo-French co-operation in the development of a successor to the naval Wasp helicopter?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I cannot give a specific answer on the naval committees; but there is a meeting of the Steering Committee which coordinates activities in this whole field to be held in the course of the next few days. The Navy and Army procedures are going on as energetically as before. As to the noble Earl's particular point about naval helicopters, I would say that the principal naval helicopter of the future is the SH3D, an American design peculiarly well suited for naval operations. But the SA.340, which is going to be the replacement for the Scout helicopter, would, I imagine, be suitable for a possible Wasp replacement. I should not like to be specific on this matter because I do not myself know whether that particular requirement is in existence.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I can understand his not wishing to be stung by being drawn too far over the Wasp.