HL Deb 08 April 1968 vol 291 cc6-7

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on Vic Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how soon now they expect to make a further statement on the future of the British variable geometry aircraft project.]


My Lords, it is too early to say.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his very full reply, may I take this opportunity of congratulating him on his promotion? While not seeking particular information, may I say that I hope his promotion will not take him too much away from the House in the future. May I ask him, in regard to the Question, whether the revised operation of the variable geometry aircraft project has yet been settled; whether it is still intended that this plane shall replace the V-bombers, and whether the time of phasing-out of the V-bombers has now been extended due to the delay in ordering a replacement?


My Lords, these questions are rather wider than the original one. Of course, the whole of our operational environment has yet to be studied, and it really is too early to answer any of these questions. I am not saying that they are not important, but I am afraid that I cannot answer them at this stage.


My Lords, may I ask whether Her Majesty's Government have made any contact with the Governments of Holland, Belgium and Germany, and I believe Italy as well, who have lately, I understand, formed a committee to study the possibility of evolving the successor to the F.104? I believe that the project comes under the name of "Hornet". Since I feel that the British Government's interest would be welcomed among those countries, may I ask NO ether any contact has so far been made?


My Lords, first of all may I thank the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, for his remarks about myself. I am not sure whether it is a promotion or a sideways move, but I hope to be as attendant as ever. I fear that I cannot give very detailed answers to questions which are not on the Order Paper, but certainly the points which the noble Lord, Lord St. Oswald, has made are under active consideration, and contact is being held particularly at the moment with the German authorities at several levels.


My Lords can the noble Lord tell us how far the British project has gone in its technical development? For example, is there yet any prospect of a prototype instruction?


No, my Lords, there is no settlement yet, and that is why I am afraid it is too early for me to make any statement.