HL Deb 27 September 2000 vol 616 cc148-9WA
Lord Hardy of Wath

asked Her Majety's Government:

What progress had been made on the MR TRIGAT anti-tank guided weapon programme. [HL3739]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The UK signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the industrialisation and production phase of MR TRIGAT in June 1999 in the expectation that we would shortly proceed to contract and maintain the programme to deliver a modern anti-tank guided weapon capability by 2005 (when stocks of the existing MILAN system start to run down).

Regrettably, MOU signature by all five participating nations has still not been achieved. Some 12 months after our MOU commitment we are no nearer to contract placement than we were then. This additional delay, to a programme that is already 10 years behind its original schedule, and the additional risk and uncertainty it creates is unacceptable. The UK's priority has to be to deliver the capability and equipment needed by our Armed Forces in an acceptable timescale.

We have therefore decided that the UK should withdraw from the MR TRIGAT industrialisation and production programme and will pursue an alternative national procurement of an anti-tank guided weapon system. We plan to issue an invitation to tender in the next few weeks for the supply of commercially available systems to meet the requirements of our infantry light forces by 2005. In parallel, we are reviewing our requirements for an antitank capability for mechanised and armoured infantry units prior to determining whether these too could be met by similar commercially available systems. Our initial assessment is that the alternative systems now available will be in many ways more capable than MR TRIGAT and offer significant financial savings.

We recognise that this decision will be a disappointment to our partners and to those areas of UK industry that had expected to benefit from MR TRIGAT. The UK remains committed to the principles of European collaboration provided it is in the UK's best interests. Regrettably it was not possible to proceed on this basis with MR TRIGAT, but there are a range of other programmes on which we remain engaged to good effect with our European partners.