HL Deb 21 May 1968 vol 292 cc587-8

2.45 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 how many R.A.F. and Ministry of Technology personnel are still engaged in America and in Britain on the now, abandoned F.111 aircraft project, and how soon it is expected a statement will be made on the agreed cancellation costs of this aircraft.]


My Lords, no staff in the United Kingdom are engaged full time on the former F.111K programme. The staff involved in negotiating cancellation charges combine this with other duties. In the United States there are at present six Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Technology staff engaged in winding up the programme. I hope that it will prove possible for a final settlement on the level of termination charges to be negotiated with the United States Government shortly, but I am unable to forecast when a statement will be made.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for his reply, may I ask him this question? Could he advise us whether, in view of the Australian concern over their order for the aircraft and the high attrition rates of the aircraft that have occurred, an allowance will be made in the compensation payment now being discussed for the development faults that still existed in the aircraft when the cancellation of the British contract took place? Can the noble Lord also say whether, in the event of the F.111 project being cancelled or abandoned entirely by the United States Government, the British compensation payment would still stand?


My Lords, on the first part of that supplementary question, I think it is too early to draw any conclusions about the success or otherwise of the F.111, though I note with gratitude the noble Earl's remarks. The second part, I am afraid, is too hypothetical. I think it is too early to conclude that the project will be cancelled.


My Lords, can the noble Lord say whether the United States authorities still proceeding with the project are deriving any benefit from the so-called winding-up process which is being carried out by the British personnel still in the United States; and, if so, whether the final cancellation charges will take account of the advantage, if it exists?


My Lords, I am sure the first part of the noble Lord's Question is highly relevant, but I cannot quite understand it.


My Lords, I was wondering whether the winding-up process to which the noble Lord referred in his original Answer was in fact a continuing development of the original project, or was simply a question of the British personnel packing their bags and belongings before returning home.


My Lords, there are a number of things to be settled. I should be surprised—I speak without advice—if there were much more to be derived from any British contribution during the winding-up process as such. A number of factors are involved and there is the possibility of offsets. All these will be taken into account when the final bill is established.