asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has now placed a firm production order for the Kestrel vertical take-off and landing aircraft.
No, Sir. The development programme is proceeding at the required rate and the firm already has authority for work on tooling.
Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the P1154, a much more advanced concept, was cancelled a very long time ago, and the evaluation squadron has come to the conclusion that it was a great mistake on the part of the Government to cancel the P1154? Will he now get moving on the P1127 before other countries start producing vertical take-off aircraft of their own?
It is quite inaccurate to say that the evaluation squadron has shown that it was a mistake for the Government to cancel the P1154. It was a very sensible decision, the sense of which has been confirmed over the past year. As regards the P1127, there is a good deal of preliminary work still going on. There is no question of it being held up at the moment. There is plently of work and there are funds available for that work to be continued, but the question of a production order does not yet arise.
How much longer do the Government intend to take before placing a production order for this aircraft? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is the firm intention of the Government to bring this aircraft into service as speedily as possible?
I confirm that work is going on on the P1127 at the minute, in accordance with previous Government statements about it. When the appropriate time comes for the question of a production order to be considered and placed, the Government's decision will be made clear. If hon. Gentlemen will simply wait till the Defence Review statement is published, they will get answers to all these questions.