§ Mr. Streeter
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 25 March,Official Report, column 473, if he will make a statement on the leasing of the Tornado F3 aircraft to Italy.
§ Mr. Aitken
I am pleased to inform the House that the Government have signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy providing for the lease of 24 RAF Tornado F3 air defence aircraft to the Italian air force for a period of up to 10 years. These aircraft will enable the Italian air force to supplement its existing air defence assets with two squadrons of this highly capable air defence aircraft in the period pending the planned introduction into service of Eurofighter 2000. At the same time, it will enhance the collective security of the Atlantic Alliance by ensuring that these aircraft, for which there is currently no United Kingdom requirement, continue to be used operationally. The memorandum of understanding also represents a vivid demonstration of the extent of our bilateral defence relationships with Italy.