asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has had on the British Aerospace P110 project.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether Her Majesty's Government will consider giving a commitment in principle to developing P110 aircraft, in conjunction with other European countries.
My right hon. Friend has received a number of representations from hon. Members stressing the importance of this project for the aerospace industry and urging Government commitment to it.As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) in the Adjournment debate on 1 March, our studies of our future combat aircraft requirements and options are continuing.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware of the vital strategic importance of this new aeroplane for the Royal Air Force, particularly if it means that we do not have to buy from abroad? Is my hon. Friend also aware of the vital importance of this project to British Aerospace, Preston division, in terms of jobs in the design team and keeping the technical operation available? What steps is my hon. Friend taking to find some measure of support, financial or otherwise, from some of our partners in Europe and the rest of the world?
The Government are continuing to give all the support that they can to British industry—British Aerospace, in particular—for the development of this project. My hon. Friend will be interested to know that, in pursuance of this aim, I shall later this afternoon be visiting the Federal Republic of Germany for discussions with German industry, and subsequently the Federal Government in Bonn.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the long-term capability of the British aerospace industry to design and produce military combat aircraft depends to a large extent on this project?
I agree with my hon. Friend, but he will no doubt accept that this project, in order to get started, will have to rely on a new way of procuring aircraft—that is, a new way of getting development money—and it is to that end that the discussions and consultations are continuing.
Is the Minister aware of the impressive lobby that took place on this issue by British Aerospace workers in the House a few weeks ago and of the concern shown at all levels about the need to develop this project? Are the Government prepared to put in extra finance to help British Aerospace to get the project off the ground?
There is no basic change in the Government's position as set out in the White Paper, Cmnd. 8288. As I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), we have to see whether we can find different ways of obtaining the money required to fund the development part of the programme.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the deep anxiety that is felt about the future of this project by my constituents, and others, who work at Warton and Samlesbury in South Fylde? Does he agree that the development of this quite brilliant warplane is of the utmost importance, nationally as well as locally, and that it deserves, and must get, the fullest and firmest support from the Government?
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend about the importance of the project to British industry and to the excellent work force that he has the honour to represent. I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the precise nature of the Government's commitment.
Is the Minister aware that the project is vital to Rolls-Royce? I note that discussions are taking place with prospective partners. Will the Minister assure the House that an interim funding arrangement could be made by the Government to ensure that the vital design and development work can proceed and that the prototype development work on the engine and the aeroplane can go on and not be held back?
The Government are fully aware of the relevant time scale on the project. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is a Tornado-related development. The engine is the 67R, and that is already included in future programmes. Among the companies that I shall be seeing later this week will be Motor Turbinen Union.