§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely,
the proposed Government purchase of an early warning system for the Royal Air Force.That the matter is specific is self-evident. It involves the largest Ministry of Defence contract in the field of the high technologies of electronics or avionics to be awarded this Parliament. It has already cost nearly £1 billion. If the contract goes to GEC, it will cost another £450 million. If it goes to Boeing, it could cost upwards of £1 billion.
The matter is important because our national defence interests and our NATO commitments depend on a correct decision being taken. If the contract goes to foreign competition, the Government will be abdicating their responsibility for their role over the past seven years. They have moved the goal posts on several occasions. They have turned off the financial tap at crucial times. They have failed to provide leadership.
Over the past weekend there has been the unprecedented spectacle of a public slanging match between a former member of the present Administration and the Royal Air Force, each accusing the other of being economical of the truth. GEC has claimed that, of 100 hours of flight time, 91 hours and 14 minutes included the perfect working of those avionics.
GEC has offered a contract with penalty clauses of unprecedented magnitude, yet the Government still go for a foreign option.
It is urgent that we should discuss the matter, because the Government should have the advice of the entire 778 House before coming to a conclusion. It is too late in the life of this Parliament for the Government to come to a decision of such magnitude without satisfying all quarters of the House of the wisdom of their action. They could even now agree to an independent assessment, away from the recriminations and the soured atmosphere that exists at present. They could agree to clear the air.
It is urgent that the Government should consider the implications for British industry and for national pride. Last Christmas, the Prime Minister gave United States industry, as a present, Westland Helicopters' technology. Last spring she tried to give it Land Rover, but only this House and the country's rebellion prevented that from happening. This Christmas she will give the United States industry 2,500 jobs and nearly £1 billion and so she will abdicate from one of the most important areas of high technology for British interests.
The matter should be discussed in the House. It is far too important for the Cabinet to take a decision without hearing all our views.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman asks leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that he thinks should have urgent consideration, namely,the proposed Government purchase of an early warning system for the Royal Air Force.I listened with great care to what the hon. Gentleman said. As he knows, my sole duty in coming to a decision under Standing Order No. 20 is to decide whether the matter should be given priority over the business set down for today or tomorrow. I regret that the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised does not meet all the criteria set down under the Standing Order and, therefore, I cannot submit his application to the House.