§ 5. Mr. P. Williams
asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on the progress of the TSR 2.
§ 7 and 8. Mr. Stonehouse
asked the Minister of Aviation (1) what was the result of the efforts of Her Majesty's Government to sell the TSR 2 to Australia;
(2) what is the estimated total cost of research and development, and of production, of the TSR 2; and on what basis these estimates have been made.
§ 10. Sir G. Nabarro
asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on the TSR 2 aircraft and anticipated operational date in Royal Air Force squadrons.
§ 21. Mr. A. Lewis
asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will make a statement on the cost and late delivery of the TSR 2 aircraft, and on the difficulties in connection with its supply to Australia.
§ 23. Mr. Lubbock
asked the Minister of Aviation what is the breakdown between development and production expenditure on the TSR 2 within the overall stated limit of £400 million; and whether the limit is to be revised.
§ Mr. J. Amery
The TSR 2 aircraft is making good progress. It is expected to fly early next year. As already stated, we plan to introduce this aircraft into service in the mid-1960s.
It is not the practice to disclose the precise dates when combat aircraft are planned to enter service or to give estimates of their development and production costs.
As the House will be aware, the Australian Government have decided not to buy the TSR 2.
§ Mr. Williams
Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that this aircraft is proceeding according to plan and that the Government maintain their intention to introduce it as an operational aircraft? Further, can he comment on the attitude of a number of hon. and right hon. Members opposite to the effect that, while believing in the advocacy of technological research, they are not willing to back it in this particular case? Finally, can 962 he say how many people, of what grades, have their employment involved in the production of this aircraft?
§ Mr. Amery
Yes, I can give an assurance that it is going forward as planned. When it flies early next year, it will be only about four years from the time when the contract was first placed, which is a very creditable achievement. As to employment, I can say that, including the airframe, the engine and the electronics and equipment side, the jobs of 15,000 to 20,000 people must be involved. As regards statements made by spokesmen of the party opposite, I can only say that I think that their opposition to the maintenance of the deterrent and some of the other things they have said were, no doubt, a contributory factor in the decision of the Australian Government.
§ Mr. Stonehouse
Does the Minister realise that his last comment will be treated with the contempt that it deserves and that this party is really interested in technical advances in all these fields?
In regard to Question No. 7, to which he did not reply, may I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that there is a great deal of feeling in Australia that, as the Commonwealth was let down by Britain during the Common Market negotiations, Australia owes us no particular loyalty, and, on this point also, can he give an assurance that there was no mistake made in the transmission of the new lower price of the TSR 2 to Australia at a crucial stage in the negotiations?
§ Mr. Amery
I am satisfied that the transmission of our offers on price were perfectly well executed. The hon. Gentleman refers to Australian anxieties about Common Market policy. My own experience, limited though it may have been over two years as Secretary of State for Air and one year as Minister of Aviation, has been that the Australians are much more disturbed by the opposition of the party opposite to the nuclear deterrent and by doubts about whether the party opposite would stand by our allies in Singapore.
§ Sir G. Nabarro
Will my right hon. Friend confirm now that this is a highly sophisticated and versatile aircraft 963 capable of both a nuclear and a conventional rôle, and will he denounce in unequivocal terms the unpatriotic activities of hon. Members opposite?
§ Mr. Amery
I can confirm that the TSR 2 is capable of both nuclear and conventional attack in both the tactical and the strategic rôle. I think that some of the comments which have been made by hon. Members opposite, notably the comment of the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) that this was the biggest scandal since the South Sea Bubble, should be treated not only with the contempt which they deserve but with the full realisation that they can only damage the export possibilities of a very fine aircraft.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Is the Minister aware of the great anxiety which has been expressed in informed quarters about the rising cost of this project? Are not we, at least, entitled to a statement from him that the original figure of £400 million could be maintained, in view of some estimates which have been made that it could rise to as much as £1,000 million?
§ Mr. Amery
I have explained that it is not our practice to give precise costs for either development or production programmes in respect of military aircraft. However, I have gone on record myself as saying that I should be astonished if the research and development of the aircraft cost even a quarter of the £1,000 million which has been talked about. I must add that I think that one of the most surprising things in all this is that the official Front Bench spokesman opposite should see fit to base himself upon figures supplied by the Observer newspaper.
§ Mr. Healey
Is the Minister aware that many of us would be happier about the defences of this country if he would succeed in distinguishing between his Ministerial responsibilities as Minister of Aviation and his electoral needs as the Member for an extremely vulnerable seat where the TSR 2 aircraft happens to be made? Can he tell the House whether he disputes the statement made by the Australian Prime Minister that the reason why the Australian Government did not choose the TSR 2 aircraft was, first, that the Australian Air Staff regarded the TFX as more suitable in 964 most ways to its needs and, second, that the terms on which the TFX was offered were considerably more favourable than those on which the British Government offered the TSR 2?
§ Mr. Amery
It is, no doubt, possible for the United States, which would be making 1,000 or more of the TFX, to produce a lower price than we can in making 100 or more of a similar aircraft. This is a fact of economic life which we have to face.
I repudiate very strongly the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that I have been mixing up electioneering with my responsibilities. How he has the face to suggest it when he himself has tried to swallow, hook, line and sinker, the Observer's figure of £1,000 million beats me.
§ Mr. McMaster
In view of the attacks by the party opposite on the production of this aircraft, will my right hon. Friend inform the House about the urgent need felt by the Royal Air Force, particularly in Germany, for an early delivery of this new tactical-strike-reconnaissance aircraft to replace the Canberra?
§ Mr. Amery
Orders have been placed, as the hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) would have seen if he had read the newspapers. They were placed several weeks ago and the Royal Air Force will receive this aircraft as soon as it can be delivered, regardless of the criticism raised by irresponsible elements in the party opposite.
§ Mr. Cronin
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the attitude of my right hon. and hon. Friends throughout has been one of constructive criticism towards this aircraft and that our apprehension is due to the delays and the prodigal expenditure? Will he indicate why there has been this prolonged delay in giving a production order for the TSR 2 if he wishes to have it in service with the R.A.F. as quickly as possible?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman has been more constructive than most of his 965 right hon. and hon. Friends, but he can hardly expect me to accept his general statement after the South Sea Bubble reference I have noted.
As I said, orders have been placed and long-dated materials are being bought for 30 aircraft to be put in squadron service, and this is only the first batch.
§ Mr. P. Williams
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the vital importance: of this aircraft to the strategic defence of the country, I beg to give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. P. Williams) has given notice that he will raise this matter on the Adjournment. I do not think that other hon. Members can give notice of other topics that will be raised at the same time.