asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement about the orders for, and supply of, multi-rôle combat aircraft for the Royal Air Force.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the latest position concerning the order for the multi-rôle combat aircraft, including revisions of numbers, delivery dates and costs since the original plan for 385 at £·4 million each.
We plan to order 385 MRCA aircraft and firm orders will be placed at the beginning of the series production phase. The delivery programme is under discussion.So far as costs are concerned, I have nothing to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans) on 27th February.— [Vol. 887, c. 225–6.]
Is it not a fact that both the German and Italian requirements have been reduced on two occasions and that although the Royal Air Force requirement has not been reduced it is now to spread its order over a longer period? In those circumstances, does the figure of £3·4 million at September 1973 prices still hold good, or has the Minister any other estimate to offer the House?
On the first two questions the answers are "Yes" and "Yes ". On the third, if the hon. Gentleman will refer to my answer on 27th February he will see that I said it was now £3·9 million, the extra figure being accounted for by inflation.
Will my hon. Friend tell us approximately how much extra, on top of the £3·9 million, the RAF version will cost? Is he aware that in West Germany estimates of more than twice £3·9 million are being given? Is there not a considerable point in the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson)?
The definition of the RAF version is at an early stage. Therefore, I cannot help my hon. Friend with the figure that he would like to have. I am aware that there has been a great deal of speculation about the figures, but those that I have given this afternoon and on previous occasions in this House are not disputed by the authorities in Germany and elsewhere which are responsible for the aircraft.
Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that not only are the prospects for the MRCA looking encouraging at present but the cost estimates throughout its life, so far, have been very accurate and that the rise has been almost entirely accounted for by inflationary factors?
The phrase "almost entirely" is about right. It is difficult to make calculations which can be defended against all those who might criticise them. The best estimates that I can make are that at constant 1969 prices and exchange rates the anticipated cost, at a very early stage, of about £1·5 million would be about £1·9 million now. Therefore, the increase attributable to changes in design is very small.