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Volume 14: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the future of the Tornado programme.

Following a proposal by the German Minister of Defence, the United Kingdom is currently considering with its partners in the Tornado programme the possibility of a change in delivery rates to relieve pressures on defence budgets. No decision has yet been made.

My hon. Friend will know better than I the inherent weaknesses of our air defences in Britain. Does he appreciate that his remarks will be regarded by Conservative Members as in many ways undermining what we said before and at the general election?

I do not believe that my hon. Friend is right. To start with, the Tornado programme has two constituent parts. At present we are talking primarily about rephasing the IDS version. The ADV version of Tornado, to which my hon. Friend alludes, comes later. It may be possible to pick up the rate of delivery by that stage.

Does my hon. Friend realise that my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will take it gravely amiss if the Tornado programme is cut back to that extent? Therefore, will he press even more strongly the German Government and others in the programme who may be creating difficulties about the sale of Tornado outside NATO?

I remind my hon. Friend that I have not referred to any particular delivery rates. I merely said that we were examining the possibility of a change in the rates. My hon. Friend's point about sales is well made. We are discussing the matter with the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany. I also remind my hon. Friend that 25 per cent. of the work done at the British Aerospace factory at Weybridge in my constituency is on the Tornado programme.