HL Deb 17 January 1967 vol 279 cc5-7

2.43 p.m.


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 the Anglo-French variable-geometry strike aircraft project; and in what manner it is proposed to sustain or develop Anglo-French co-operation between our aero-space industries with regard to military projects.]


My Lords, my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Minister of Aviation met the French Minister of the Armed Forces yesterday and reached agreement with him that the joint variable-geometry aircraft project should go ahead. They decided to meet again in March to complete agreement on the technical specification and to take the further decisions required to implement the programme.

As regards the second part of this Question, we are making good progress on the Jaguar and Martel joint projects, and we reached agreement yesterday on a joint programme for the development and production of three types of military helicopter. I would add that all future needs of the Services are examined with a view to their suitability as collaborative ventures.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for his reply, which seems most satisfactory and encouraging. Can the noble Lord say whether the Jaguar project was discussed yesterday, and in the context of a replacement proposal by Dassault for a version of the Mirage, the F 1, and in view of the desire of Dassault and Breguet to co-operate in rationalising their activities, can the noble Lord assure the House that there is to be no curtailment or modification of the current Jaguar programme?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that the current Jaguar programme is being pressed ahead as fast as possible. I certainly am not aware—and I am sure this is the position—of any intention to interfere with the Jaguar aircraft, which is a very firm requirement both for the French Air Force and for the Royal Air Force.


My Lords, what I am trying to ask the noble Lord is this: Has there been any change regarding the sharing of work on the Jaguar project? With regard to the question of the package deal for helicopter production, which is most encouraging, can the noble Lord say whether France has agreed to acquire any of the utility WG 13 helicopters, and whether any of the SA 330 and SA 340, to be assembled in this country, will be equipped with British engines?


My Lords, first of all on the Jaguar project, I think I can best answer the question of sharing costs—which I think was the noble Lord's point—by saying that it is the intention over the whole field of Anglo-French aircraft co-operation that there should be more or less a balance of payments on either side; in other words, we are taking a whole package. Obviously, the situation will vary from year to year, but by and large it will work out level, and both countries hope to make a profit, in terms of foreign exchange, by their export earnings.

So far as helicopters are concerned, there will be production in both countries of all three aircraft. The amount will vary according to the stage of development. Clearly, the SA 330 has gone further along the road, and the proportion of British development will be less. But there is general agreement that this will be balanced. The utility helicopter, WG 13, will be of British design, and it is intended that it should have a British engine. The present position, so far as the engines for the SA 330 and SA 340 are concerned, is that, because of cost and time-scale, they will probably have French engines, but we hope that there will be some element of British production in them. It is a complicated business. I have answered the noble Lord, I think, as fully as I can.


I thank the noble Lord.