Typhoon exports are an important part of our defence export drive. They help to sustain highly skilled jobs and engineering capability in the air sector as well as enhancing our alliances in key regions of the world. We also recognise the benefit Typhoon sales could have on the Ministry of Defence’s own acquisition programme. Ministers and officials from across Government are actively promoting Typhoon where appropriate, highlighting the excellent performance and reliability on operations and the outstanding value for money it offers, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just confirmed.
May I associate my views with those of other hon. Members regarding the loss of life in Afghanistan?
Last week, the Indian Ministry of Defence ordered an internal review into the procurement process that led to the French Rafale aircraft receiving preferred bidder status despite the fact that it was apparently out-performed by the Eurofighter in tests as well as in operations in Libya? What discussions has the Minister held with his Indian counterparts to seek reassurances that Britain’s defence export industry is not losing out because of unfair and uncompetitive practices?
The hon. Gentleman takes a close interest in these matters and took part in the Westminster Hall debate introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies) on 7 March, so I understand where he is coming from. I can assure him that I take these matters very seriously. I have read the reports about the internal investigation that Minister Antony, the Defence Minister in India, has instigated. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I shall be flying to India tomorrow, where I hope to have discussions with Indian Ministers and other officials.
The Typhoon is clearly an exceptional aircraft, but to sell it to countries around the world we need to draw on all the experience we have as a nation and our contacts with other countries. Given that our contact with India goes back many decades, why were the Germans chosen to lead the sales consortium? Should not we have been leading that, in what used to be a part of the British empire?
I understand where my hon. Friend is coming from, but unfortunately the previous Government decided that the project would be led by the Germans, despite all the connections the UK has with India. I can assure him that we and BAE Systems are taking a very active part not only in preparing ourselves in case the Indians would like us to resubmit and talk to us again, but in discussions with EADS, Cassidian, the German Government and our other two partners. We are also working very hard on the export drive to make up for the loss and damage done by Labour when it was in government.