HC Deb 03 November 2003 vol 412 c528
10. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South)

Whether he expects the future strategic tanker aircraft to be (a) crewed and (b) serviced by sponsored reserves. [135552]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram)

The Ministry of Defence is currently assessing bids from two consortiums for the future strategic tanker aircraft project. As part of our evaluation of that potential private finance initiative contract, we are considering whether a proportion of the air and ground crew personnel could be sponsored reserves.

Mr. Tynan

I thank my right hon. Friend for that comprehensive response. He must be aware that there is some concern about the future of the strategic tanker aircraft as a PFI project. Is he confident that such an aircraft could be used for air-to-air refuelling? Does he believe that such an aircraft would be secure in operation? Does he agree that sponsored reservists should not be used in the front line in any future conflict?

Mr. Ingram

My hon. Friend has taken a particular interest in this matter, but I should point out that the Ministry of Defence has already awarded a number of PFI contracts that contribute to the overall operational effectiveness of our armed forces. For example, the enhancement of a strategic sealift capability through the provision of the roll-on/roll-off ferry service proved a significant success during operations in the Gulf. The concept of sponsored reserves sitting alongside a PFI project has been tried and tested, and to good effect.

Let me assure my hon. Friend and the House that we examine each PFI /PPP proposal entirely on its merits, and we will adopt a PFI solution for the future strategic tanker aircraft only if we are fully satisfied that it meets our operational requirements at best value for money. The two bids are currently being examined. We have not yet reached a conclusion, but all the factors that my hon. Friend raises have to be taken into consideration.

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