HC Deb 15 July 1986 vol 101 cc837-8
4. Mr. Chope

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will report on the outcome of his visit to Pakistan in relation to the sale of frigates.

Mr. Lee

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has not been to Pakistan.

Mr. Chope

Is my hon. Friend aware that when I put down the question two weeks ago, a visit was expected within a few days? Does he realise how vital it is for the people of Southampton that the order for type 21 frigates is won in Pakistan? Does he accept that the only way to win the order is for a Minister to go to Pakistan and tie up the final negotiations? Can my hon. Friend assure me that a Minister will visit Pakistan before the end of the month?

Mr. Lee

I fully understand my hon. Friend's concern for Vospers. It is a delicate matter. Negotiations are continuing. I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that the former Minister of State for Defence Procurement visited Pakistan in support of the order in November 1985. A further ministerial visit is under active discussion.

Mr. Nicholas Brown

Besides the export potential of frigates, the Minister will be concerned with the export potential of their accompanying fleet auxiliaries. Can he now perhaps explain why the Harland and Wolff designs for our premier fleet auxiliary the AOR 1 were said in the House in April to have been comprehensively costed, yet, as we were told only a week ago, are still being reviewed by the Ministry of Defence?

Mr. Lee

I believe that this matter has been explained to the appropriate House of Commons Committee. Swan Hunter will be provided with the basic Harland and Wolff tender package at the end of August. That is now being examined to ensure that information given in commercial confidence to Harland and Wolff is not passed on to Swan Hunter. If Swan Hunter indicates on the basis of the basic tender that it is interested in tendering, it will be given detailed design drawings by January 1987 to enable it to provide a meaningful tender.

Mr. Franks

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the export history of Vickers Shipbuilders and Engineering to the Indian subcontinent. May I renew the invitation, which I gave to the Secretary of State on his appointment to that office, to visit Barrow and see, not only the shipyards, but the engineering parts of the complex?

Mr. Lee

My hon. Friend never fails to get in a plug for the Vickers yard in his constituency, and we fully expect that to continue. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence heard his point, and I am sure that he will be visiting Vickers relatively soon.

Mr. Janner

The Minister referred to the delicate negotiations with Pakistan. Has he also taken into account the other delicacy, which is relations with India and the anxieties in India over the build-up of armaments by Pakistan? What arrangements, if any, are being made for consultations with India in respect of armaments in that area?

Mr. Lee

Obviously, we have ongoing business and relationships with both Pakistan and India. I draw the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to the fact that recently we sold Hermes to India.

Mr. Viggers

Ministry of Defence efforts in Pakistan and, indeed, Greece are greatly appreciated, but is my hon. Friend aware that the first question asked by any prospective purchaser is whether the Royal Navy has placed orders with the yard in question? In that connection, will my hon. Friend ensure that Vosper Thornycroft is always given fair consideration for Royal Navy orders?

Mr. Lee

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance.