To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what progress has been made with regard to placing a contract for the Extended Range Ordnance and Modular Charge System for the AS90 howitzer. 
§ Mr. George Robertson
I am pleased to announce that a contract for the final development and production of extended range barrels and a new Modular Charge System for the AS90 self-propelled gun has been placed with Marconi Electronic Systems. This programme will extend the range and increase the effectiveness of AS90, and will 331W provide a significantly enhanced artillery capability for the British Army. The contract will sustain about 50 jobs with Marconi at Barrow-in-Furness and at the Royal Ordnance factory in Nottingham, which will manufacture the extended range barrels. The Modular Charge System will be supplied by Somchem of South Africa. The total value of the contract with Marconi is around £75 million.