§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
We remain committed to purchasing 25 A400M aircraft. Belgium, France, Turkey and Spain also remain firmly committed to the programme. However, there is still uncertainty about the position of Portugal, and we still await resolution of the German funding issues. In the interim, we continue to work with all our partners to bring the signed contract into effect as soon as possible
§ Mr. Turner
I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I am sure that he will be aware of the concern with which those in the aerospace industry view the A400M programme and the difficulties with our German partners. Can he confirm that there is a deadline for confirmation of this important programme, which will please so many of my constituents in East Cowes?
§ Mr. Hoon
I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman and the House that the United Kingdom wants to see this programme move forward. The contract will enter into 10 force once Germany has the approval of the Bundestag for funding and can make its full commitment to the programme. Continued participation of other nations, including the United Kingdom, is subject to that German signature becoming effective without any qualifications. However, there is no specific deadline in the way that his question suggests.
§ Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)
Is not the truth that this programme was always more political than military, and that it does not represent good value for money compared with the alternatives available? Should not the Government try to get out of this contract as soon as possible?
§ Mr. Hoon
I do not accept that for a moment. The A400M is the best deal for the Royal Air Force, the taxpayer and British industry. I am surprised to hear a senior and experienced Conservative Member make a suggestion that would clearly be extraordinarily detrimental to Britain's military capability and, crucially, to British jobs.