HL Deb 10 July 1975 vol 362 cc905-6

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 was the date when the Ministry of Defence (Army) laid down an operational requirement to the British aerospace industry for a successor to the small anti-tank missile Vigilant, and whether they can give an assurance that no further contracts will be placed with France for such a missile until the United Kingdom industry has been given a chance to present its case.


My Lords, the British Aircraft Corporation was commissioned to carry out experimental studies on a man-portable anti-tank weapon starting in January 1971 and a feasibility study started early in 1972. We have been in close touch with British industry throughout and no decision to adopt a foreign-designed weapon will be taken without full and careful consideration of all the implications.


My Lords, while I am grateful to the Minister for the second part of that Answer, may I ask whether the Minister will bear in mind that we have already committed ourselves to spending over £100 million in buying Exorcet from the French, and does it make sense to finance the development and production of competitor weapons when the competitor nations are not really full Members of NATO? Does he understand the repercussions on Britain's aerospace industry, and the possibilities that sales overseas will be deeply injured if we decided to drop all the British missiles and to buy the French Milan?


My Lords, that is one of the considerations that I have mentioned. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State is fully aware of all the implications in this matter.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this final question: could we be assured that there will be no early announcement on this matter, when neither House is sitting and is therefore not in a position to debate such a very important issue?


My Lords, I can only transfer the noble Lord's comments to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.


My Lords, would the Minister agree that it is essential that we should co-operate fully with the French aerospace industry regarding joint ventures? While this may not be a joint venture, can he say whether discussions are going on with regard to the French buying projects from our aerospace industry?


My Lords, that is another question.

Back to