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Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington) : Does the Minister recall that yesterday evening I mentioned to him the possibility of frigate orders. Tens of thousands of workers will be anticipating the Minister's announcement. Is he going to order new frigates, and if so how many and when?

Mr. Clark : We have invited tenders for up to four new type 23s at present, which will be ordered within the year.

Mr. Boyes : December 1989, was it not?

Mr. Clark : It is a matter of evaluating the tenders. Plainly, the ships have to come at the best price. It is a matter of detailed and comprehensive technical evaluation, and the orders will be placed as soon as the tenders are accepted.

Mr. Ted Garrett (Wallsend) : I did not quite catch the Minister's point about the air support ships contract. Did he say that the studies had been completed? Will tenders be announced this year or next year?

Mr. Clark : Tenders will be announced next year.

Turning now to Army projects, we have made plain our determination to replace the Chieftain tank, and following my right hon. Friend's announcement in the House last December, Vickers Defence Systems was awarded a contract in January to demonstrate whether they can deliver Challenger 2 to specification, time and cost. We are approaching this purchase on a step by step basis and expect to take a decision on the next step by the end of 1990.

On the subject of small arms, Royal Ordnance plc has now delivered over 70,000 SA80 weapons and it is now in

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service with our front line units, and provides an improvement over its predecessor in terms of accuracy, rates of fire and compactness. The LAW80 lightweight man-portable anti-tank weapon entered service in February 1988, and several thousand of these are now in service. As the House will be aware, the LAW80 programme has been the subject of detailed study by the Select Committee, whose report we are now considering. We will of course be responding to the various points the report makes.

We are particularly concerned to examine all options that collaboration may provide to meet the army's future needs. We are pursuing options with France and West Germany for medium and long-range third generation anti- tank guided weapon systems--TRIGAT--to replace our current MILAN, Swingfire and TOW systems. Additionally we are working with France, Germany and the USA and on the multiple-launch rocket system to help meet our depth fire requirements.

The Royal Air Force continues to reap the benefit of its major modernisation programme. Annual expenditure on air systems is running at approximately £3 billion. Since the House last debated defence, development contracts have been signed for the European fighter aircraft.

Many hon. and right hon. Members are, I know, concerned over the outstanding decision on the selection of a radar for EFA. Some have been to see me to represent the interests of their constituents. I have also seen the national officers and works representatives of the MSF. We have to ensure that the right choice of radar is made to take full account of operational, technical, risk and cost factors, although the process of reaching a decision with our collaborative partners is taking longer than we would have liked.

The Tornado programme continues to demonstrate what can be achieved through successful collaboration. Nine squadrons of Tornado GR1 strike/ground attack aircraft are now operational, as are four squadrons of the F3 air defence interceptor variant.

The first squadron of the new Harrier GR5 has been formed and declared operational with a second squadron working-up.

If I may turn now to our helicopter programme, I am pleased to inform the House that an instruction to proceed has been issued to Boeing Helicopters for the update of the RAF fleet of Chinook helicopters to the latest CH-47D standard.

The Royal Navy version of the Anglo-Italian EH101 in the anti-submarine warfare role is into full development. Five prototype aircraft have commenced flight testing and have completed more than 200 hours flying. Project definition of the utility version is continuing.

The success of British industry in meeting the demanding requirements of the British Armed Services is matched by its successes in the field of defence exports. The House will join me in congratulating British industry on another highly successful year. Aided by the Defence Export Services Organisation, we succeeded in 1988 in securing business valued at in excess of £3,500 million, thus making the United Kingdom the third largest exporter of defence equipment and services in the world.

Mr. Rogers : That does not seem to tally with the defence estimates, which show a decline in overseas sales of

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defence equipment from £1.2 billion to £781 million. Does the figure which the Minister has given to the House tally with our defence estimates?

Mr. Clark : The hon. Gentleman must be referring to a different year.

The benefits that success in export market brings are considerable in terms both of employment and foreign exchange. Overall, some 100, 000 jobs in this country are sustained by the defence export business and the balance of trade on defence equipment currently shows a healthy surplus of some £500 million a year even before the full impact of recent increased levels of sales is felt.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : Why does the Minister refer to defence equipment? It is military equipment and can be used for aggression as well as defence. Are we honestly saying that we are one of the biggest exporters of military weapons that can be used against perhaps defenceless people? Is that the boast of the Government?

Mr. Clark : Yes, the hon. Gentleman is right : defence is a euphemism for all forms of weapons. As the hon. Gentleman knows, defence sales are strictly controlled and there are guidelines to which we defer which greatly restrict the scope that we have for selling in a number of different markets. I am sure that the House approves of that.

We continue to give our strong support to the sale of British equipment overseas wherever this is compatible with the United Kingdom's political, strategic, and security interests. The right of every nation to secure the means for its own defence is embodied in article 51 of the United Nations charter and the Government believe that there is scope within the context of our stringent scrutiny and export licensing procedures for meeting the legitimate demands of friendly countries. Indeed, a strong British influence in assisting nations to provide for their own defence, is regarded as a positive force in the search for global peace and security.

Mr. Cryer : The Minister invokes the United Nations charter as a means of defending the export of arms, so why does he defend the purchase of Trident when that is clearly in breach of clause 6 of the United Nations' non-proliferation treaty? Surely, it is incompatible to call in aid the United Nations for one section of defence expenditure, but ignore an important trade treaty which was, as he knows, signed by 133 non-nuclear nations when spending about £10,000 million on Trident nuclear weapons.

Mr. Clark : I understand why the hon. Gentleman wants to express that point on the Floor of the House. However, as he well knows, he has received a letter from my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in which his query was answered at length. The House has been tolerant of the length of time which I have taken and I know that it would not want me to repeat that reply now.

Yesterday evening much was made of the divisions in the Labour party, which are self evident. I do not propose to return to them but my sympathies-- like, I suspect, those of the majority of this House--are with those Opposition Members who speak from the heart, from conviction rooted deep in experience and tradition, in preference to the Labour leadership who are, at present, in their designer mode in which any policy, no matter how

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sacrosanct or how strongly supported by the movement, can be fine, tuned for a couple of points in the opinion polls.

Yesterday, I listened with great attention to the speech of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). I always come into the Chamber to hear his speeches. I recall his brilliant address on that somewhat self- satisfied occasion when the House was celebrating the tercentenary of the Bill of Rights. One's enjoyment of the right hon. Gentleman's contribution has to be tempered by the fact that he is always wrong. His whole record shows that in his judgment, performance and prediction he is always wrong.

Yesterday, he committed a further error which I must correct. He said that the Trident system was not independent and could not be operated without the consent of the President of the United States. I must tell him that that was the very first question to which I addressed myself in my first hours in this Department, and I put it to the senior officials in my Department. I was entirely satisfied by their answers and I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has given me the occasion to assert my complete confidence in the independence of our strategic deterrent.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : The hon. Gentleman has just told us that he has been told by civil servants that I am wrong, which is of great interest to the House, but I want to ask him one clear question : has he, or, for that matter, has the Secretary of State, even seen the agreements between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom governing the use of nuclear weapons in Britain by the Americans, or the use by Britain of nuclear weapons supplied by the United States? Unless he has, his comments are merely secondhand tittle-tattle from officials in his Department.

Mr. Clark : I interrogated my officials on the technical question. Of course I have not seen the agreements, but technical obstructions are more difficult to get over in times of crisis than pieces of paper. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen the agreement either--

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North) : During the Minister's cosy chat with his officials in the first hours of his important new appointment, did the officials tell him in what circumstances the Government might be prepared to use Britain's nuclear weapons independently in an assault by or with the Soviet Union? If he described such circumstances to give some practical effect to his theoretical assertion, will he be good enough to share with us the views of his civil servants?

Mr. Clark : Certainly not, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I postulated a series of circumstances--not necesarily in relation to the Soviet Union--to them.

Of course, there is a realisation, perhaps more firmly grounded among Conservative Members than among Opposition Members, that much is or may be changing. Of course, we welcome events in eastern Europe--the spread of democracy, the lowering of super-power tensions--and we realise that over the medium term, and if sustained, they will invite the consideration of new initiatives in policy, in force structure and in procurement. But my right hon. Friend has warned the House that empires can be at their most dangerous as they disintegrate, and although there have been many declarations of intent, force levels are little changed. Those charged with the defence of the

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United Kingdom must concern themselves with the facts as they are rather than as they may be at some future time, if all optimistic assumptions are fulfilled. I am entirely confident that the weapons procurement programme set out in these estimates is appropriate to our present needs, and I commend them to the House.

5.44 pm

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda) : We have listened to the Minister for 42 minutes and I am sure that most Opposition Members, at least, are more confused than we were when he started. To bring him up to date with his own business, I must point out that the year that was referred to earlier--he seems a little confused about it--was 1989. The hon. Gentleman has his figures hopelessly wrong ; he should read his own "Statement on the Defence Estimates".

Yesterday, Conservative Members spent all their time criticising the Labour party's defence policy. We quite understand--as I hope to demonstrate before I conclude--the reasons why they want to concentrate on our policies and not their estimates. The hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Hayward), who is not here this evening, spent much time bleating about the job losses that would ensue if the Labour party were elected. That is fairly ripe coming from a party and a Government who use unemployment as an economic tool, regardless of the human misery it causes. Over the past 10 years, the Government have presided over an economy in which more than 4 million people have been unemployed--and they bleat about job losses.

That is even more ripe coming from a Ministry of Defence which has reduced service personnel by 4 per cent. since 1984 and has reduced the civilian labour force in the MOD by 21,000 since 1987--these figures are given in the estimates. The Government have reduced employment in defence-related industries by 115,000 in seven years, yet the hon. Member for Kingswood had the cheek to bleat about the possible loss of 10,000 jobs--

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness) rose--

Mr. Rogers : I have only just started.

The Government have cut, delayed and reduced so much that Westland, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Kingswood, despairs of getting an order for the EH101. While we are on the subject of Westland, perhaps the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will tell us when he winds up whether the Ministry of Defence will place orders for the Royal Navy variant of the EH101. When will there be a firm order for the troop- carrying variant for the Army, and when will the future of Westland be assured by the Department giving it some orders?

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rogers : Not now. Others gave way to the hon. Gentleman too much yesterday and many of my hon. Friends want to participate in the debate. I shall give way only at certain times so that we can make progress.

I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not here. I was rather surprised that he said that he had to go to an urgent meeting. The dates for this debate were set by the

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Government, but I have told the right hon. Gentleman that I am going to refer to him on more than one occasion

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Archie Hamilton) : The Secretary of State has made it clear that had it not been for the Home Secretary's statement today he would have been here to hear the hon. Gentleman's speech. As it is, everything was delayed, and that is why he has had to leave.

Mr. Rogers : I am sorry that the Secretary of State cannot be here for the full two days of debate, because I want to refer to his shabby speech yesterday. In an attempt to smear the Labour party and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) he referred, in relation to the rise of Hitler and his Nazi thugs, to "the sort of dangerous, easy solution that led us to abandon our defences at a crucial time with the consequent disasters of the 1930s."[ Official Report, 18 October 1989 ; Vol. 158, c. 149.] The Secretary of State was trying to link what happened in the 1930s, and appeasement, with Labour party policy and the Soviet Union. That was the thrust of his argument, but he did not have the grace to apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield when he was corrected. He should take the trouble to examine the history of the 1930s.

I want to place on record a few comments made by Conservative Members at the time. The then right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, speaking at Bridgwater, the constituency of the present Secretary of State for Defence, said :

"Why can we not make friends with Italy and Germany? There are people saying Herr Hitler has broken his word. I tell you there is one bargain he has made--that is, that the German Navy should only be one-third of the British Navy--which he has kept, and kept loyally". That was the view of R. A. Butler. Mr. L. C. M. S. Amery, the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, said :

"We cannot afford to pursue any policy which would bring us into conflict with Germany, Italy and Japan."

C. T. Culverwell, the hon. Member for Bristol, West said : "I ask those who hate Hitler what has Hitler done of which we can reasonably complain?"

In 1936 the Prime Minister told the House :

"Supposing I had gone to the country and said that Germany was rearming and that we must rearm, I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain."--[ Official Report, 12 November 1936 ; Vol. 317, c. 1144.] I repeat such remarks for one purpose. They make Conservative Members uncomfortable. They attempt to smear the Labour party and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) said yesterday, it greatly offends us when Conservatives try to relate our party to the Communist Government in Russia. It was the Conservative party that consorted with the Nazis and their thugs in the 1930s. The Secretary of State's remarks yesterday about the Labour party were appalling. The present Government give succour and credence to Fascist regimes throughout the world.

Mr. Timothy Wood (Stevenage) : It should be made clear that in his speech yesterday the Secretary of State spoke about "us"--the British Government and people in the 1930s. In his speech he did not refer to the Labour party. The only hon. Member who made a specific reference to people at that time was the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), who spoke about the Prime Minister of the day. The difference now between the

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Conservative party and the Labour party is that we have learned from experiences then and the Labour party has not.

Mr. Rogers : That is absolute rubbish. If the hon. Gentleman refers to column 149 of yesterday's Hansard , he will see that what he has just said is complete tripe.

When he was speaking about the NATO commitment yesterday, the Secretary of State said :

"We should make a proper contribution to the defence of the West. I am proud not only of the cost but of the quality of the contribution that we make to NATO.--[ Official Report, 18 October 1989 ; Vol. 158, c. 151.]

Perhaps the Minister of State for the Armed Forces will tell us why the Government have cut their commitment to NATO. Why have they given up the 3 per cent. increase on annual expenditure? Perhaps he can instruct the Secretary of State for Defence to get his facts right. Last year the Select Committee on Defence drew the Government's attention to the matter in the first paragraph of the second part of its comments on the defence estimates.

The trouble with the Government is that they think that strategic choices can be avoided simply by saying that they are seeking better value for money. In last year's debate the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement made heavy weather of that dictum. Things would be all right if the Government knew the meaning of value, but they understand only the cost and that inability is the fundamental cause of the rottenness of all their policies, whether in health, social services or defence. In the same way as the Health Service is not safe in their hands, neither is defence. If it means anything, Thatcherism means looking at public spending, in the light not of what is desirable but of what is affordable and the Government ask themselves how can they get it as cheaply as possible. That is the underlying basis of the Procurement Executive and the Ministry of Defence. The Government spend as little as they can and pay no attention to the quality or whether an item can be delivered on time or even if it works. We have seen that with the Foxhunter radar. The Government have never matched the ends of their defence policy to their means, or vice versa. Their defence and procurement policies are in shreds. In yesterday's debate, one of my hon. Friends drew attention to the cuts in the budget over the last few years. That is why our amendment asks for a review of Britain's defence roles. John Nott was the last Minister to face the problem in 1981, and he made the wrong choices. So bad was his judgment that hon. Members know that if the Falklands invasion had happened a year or so later we would have been incapable of striking back. However, today we are almost down to the 42-frigate Navy that John Nott proposed. As we said yesterday, the number of frigates in operation is in the low 30s.

The defence review in the last 10 years was carried out by stealth and incompetence. Conservative Members criticise the Labour party about cuts, but consistent cuts have been happening for the last six years, and between now and 1991 we will see the cuts proposed in the estimates. They will mean that our front-line service men will have planes that cannot fly to their full efficiency. The Minister mentioned the Tornado aircraft but not all those aircraft have radar in the nose to enable them to be properly used. There are 29 Tornados in storage because they do not have the radar that is necessary for operation. Those are the sort of planes that our Air Force has to use,

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yet the Minister says that he is proud of his procurement policy. Any analysis of the Defence Estimates shows a gloomy picture of cuts.

The previous Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), acknowledged in his evidence to the Select Committee on Defence that he would have difficulty in funding desirable parts of his programme. The report of that Committee says :

"We would have liked to have ordered 8 AWACS aircraft, we have accepted that we can do the job acceptedly with 7".

That is typical of the present process. Eight AWACS are required for the defence of the country, but the Government say that they do not have enough money for that and will have only seven. However, they say that it does not matter and that the job can be done with seven.

Mr. Alan Clark : May we assume that all the cuts will be restored by a Labour Government if they ever take office? Is the hon. Gentleman preparing us for greatly increased defence expenditure?

Mr. Rogers : At the moment we are discussing the Government's estimates. [Interruption.] I wish that the Government Whip would not murmur. If he wants to speak, he has only to stand up, if he can. I want to concentrate on the estimates before us because Ministers did not do that yesterday. I shall later come to other matters. I know that it hurts Conservative Members to look at the estimates, but if they do they will see that inflation is calculated at 2 per cent. The relative price effect was discussed at great length last year in the Select Committee. In view of the way that inflation is running, there is no way, even with the extra notional cash in the estimates, that we will be able to meet our defence requirements. Increases in service pay and pensions are running at 7 per cent. and there are likely to be further increases in view of the problems of manpower retention and recruitment.

The Secretary of State, who is not here, had the effrontery to criticise the Labour party on this issue. At the Conservative party conference last week he said :

"Two great companies (Harland and Wolff) and (Shorts), no longer enfeebled by endless dependence on taxpayer support, but now proudly under new ownership in the private sector".

Then he stopped for his two-minute clap.

I would tell the Secretary of State, if he were here, that Shorts was "enfeebled" by the public purse--"enfeebled" to the tune of £1,000 million of taxpayers' money, which went to fatten it up so that it could be handed over to friends of the Tory party. Enfeebled, indeed. One of the main proponents of that was the Secretary of State, when he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The same man ensured that the Tucano contract was granted to Shorts--I shall say more about that later. The specification was changed, at great cost to the taxpayer and, potentially, to the nation's security. What hypocrisy on the part of the Secretary of State, who has the cheek to come to the Chamber and criticise the Labour party after what he has done to our defence budget.

At the Conservative party conference, the Secretary of State saw fit to demean himself by referring to the action of a few people in the Labour party who organised a fringe meeting with Sinn Fein in Brighton. In his speech, he attempted to smear the whole Labour party. I do not want to descend to the gutter politics of the Secretary of State, but let me ask a question which, perhaps, his friends will pass on to him.

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Did the Secretary of State, along with his friends from the Conservative party--I cannot believe that he did--attend the meeting with the neo-Nazi Mr. Blot of the French National Front, who was invited to address the party at Blackpool? [ Hon. Members :-- "He did not come."] Did the Secretary of State visit Mr. Derby-Lewis, of the Fascist South African Conservative party, in Blackpool? Again, I cannot believe that he did. If he did not meet them--whether they came or not-- [Interruption.] They were invited, and when the Secretary of State returns to the House he may wish to distance himself from many of his colleagues who would have gone to the meetings in Blackpool, and did go to one of them. Those members of his party were happy to consort with the Fascists of Europe and the world. And the Secretary of State has the cheek to criticise the fringe meeting that was organised in Brighton.

After his "Communism and Socialism" tripe of yesterday, to which of the wings of the Tory party are we to understand that the Secretary of State belongs? Does he belong to the wing that consorted with the Nazi thugs in the 1930s? I am not sure about the Minister of State for Defence Procurement ; would he care to say whether he belongs to that wing of the party?

At the Conservative party conference, the Secretary of State referred to Tiananmen square :

"When old men get frightened of losing control, it can get very nasty".

That, of course, can apply to aging women as well.

If the Secretary of State's criticism is correct, can the Minister tell me why he authorised the sale of arms to Red China a few weeks ago? If the Government condemn the "old men" and the regime, why do they give them succour, credence and the ability to dominate their people? Why are they giving them the weapons for internal repression? This was equipment that could be fitted to fighter planes, not strike bombers. If the Secretary of State wishes to criticise China, perhaps he should consider that aspect of his job.

The Secretary of State said that he was proud of the reception that the Prime Minister is given in Warsaw, Gdansk, Moscow and Budapest. But why does she not receive it in Glasgow, Newcastle, Birmingham and Wales--areas where the present Government's policies have made the Prime Minister loathed, not loved, and where she never walks the streets? Yesterday the Secretary of State strutted around talking about having consorted with the Hungarian and German regimes, but members of the Government do not have the courage to visit parts of their own country.

The acid test of defence procurement policy is whether our soldiers, airmen and sailors have the equipment that they need to carry out their duties, on time, in place and in working order. The Government fail that test in every contract. There are delays, slippages and cuts, with the result that our service men do not obtain their equipment as and when they should.

The policy of competitive bidding might have some credibility if the Procurement Executive and the Ministry of Defence knew what they were doing, and fulfilled their side of the bargain. The background, however, is one of changing requirements and specifications. Companies have complained to us that the Government are not giving them proper specifications, sufficient data or proper drawings, and, at the last moment, change everything

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round again. We know the technique, as do the members of the Select Committee : it is all because the Government are cutting back. It is a simple technique to move things off the shelf so that there can be delays.

As a result of all the pressure, companies are underbidding to obtain contracts. There is the classic instance of United Scientific Holdings, the company of which Sir Peter Levene was chairman before the became chairman of the Procurement Executive. It fell hopelessly behind, and was unable to complete a contract for a thermal optical guidance system for tanks. Tanks are now operating in Germany that can fight only by day. The men are praying that the Russians will not dare to arrive at night, because the tanks cannot operate then. And this is the Minister of State who is proud of his procurement record. The first thing that he should do is talk to the workers out there who are producing the equipment. He should listen to their complaints, and then go to see our service men and ask them about their problems.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rogers : The hon. Gentleman has just come into the Chamber, so I shall not give way to him.

Mr. Franks : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rogers : I will give way to the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Franks), because he has been in the Chamber for some time.

Mr. Franks : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman.

One of the companies that have spoken to the Labour party is Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. Not only management but shop stewards went specially to the Labour party conference to ask the Labour defence team what its proposals were for the work force of 14,000 if Trident 4 was cancelled. Let me ask the hon. Gentleman specifically what the Labour party expects those 14,000 ment in the shipyards in Barrow to do on a Monday morning if a Labour Government had cancelled Trident 4 on the Saturday.

Mr. Rogers : VSEL is not one of the companies that I talked to. Criticism is both explicit and implicit in the Select Committee report on procurement, but business and industry have expressed criticism as well. It has come from, for instance, Peter Sachs, director of the Electronics and Business Equipment Association. The Minister of State said that, when my hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. O'Neill) criticised his policy yesterday, he did not know what he was talking about. I suggest that the Minister does not know what he is talking about.

Peter Sachs and others are saying that our present bidding policy is ridiculous--and it is ridiculous. Companies are being forced to bid when they know that they cannot produce : the thermal optical guidance system is an obvious example. The Government are sitting back and letting the United Kingdom defence electronics base be run down, and the relationship between British and other European contractors is a subject which the Government rarely mention, except in vague terms of collaboration. Even yesterday, it took interventions from my right hon. and hon. Friends to get anything from the Secretary of State on the crisis presently facing Ferranti.

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In the past year, the Government have made mistake after mistake. German and French companies are moving into our defence industry, but always ensuring that the research and development base remains in their own countries. We have ended up without the industrial capability to maintain our military forces. Our industrial base is being destroyed.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) : In pursuit of his desire to make sure that we have our defence equipment on time, does the hon. Gentleman support and condone the attempt being made by members of the engineering union to go for a 35-hour week? Does he support their call for strike action, which would undoubtedly delay the delivery of our defence equipment?

Mr. Rogers : Yes. Quite honestly, I support our engineers in going for exactly what our competitors in Germany and other countries have. If they have a 35-hour week in Germany, I would support it here. The problem and the difference is that the management of our industry may well be at fault. I am not going to give a simplistic answer to an extraordinarily complicated question, except to say that it is no good the Government claiming credit for something that is not happening. No one can deny that there are delays, cuts and slippages.

The Government's record on procurement is appalling. That does not surprise me because they do not have any real experience. They like to pretend that they have experience. When the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) became Secretary of State for Defence, he was applauded and Conservative Members were glad to have a business man in charge of defence, but quite frankly, I see no evidence of any great business or entrepreneurial skills among the present team. They try to portray themselves as a "business" Government, wise in the ways and the alleys of the markets. They pretend that they know their way about, but they do not. Their only real contact with big business is when they lose their jobs in Government, when they are booted out by the headmistress and a company takes them on as a business toy boy. They take them on for their contacts, hoping to acquire a few contracts here and there. The Conservative Benches are filled with those toy boys who are the playthings of the City of London and big business simply because of the contacts they have. We know how much they are into big business.

Mr. Hind : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rogers : Not at the moment.

I shall say a few words about exports, as the Secretary of State referred to them. It is a great pity that the Minister did not know anything about his own estimates, but I assure him that there has been a decline in overseas sales in defence equipment from £1.2 billion to £781 million--a 37 per cent. fall in the past year. The past year has also seen the revelations surrounding the Saudi-Jordanian deal and the Malaysian deal. It was hilarious to see the Prime Minister running away from any responsibility for the deals, especially after her pronouncement last week :

"We are not that sort of party."

The Prime Minister was totally involved in the arms deals with the Malaysians and with the Saudis. Originally, she was quite proud to take the accolades, but when the dirtiness and corruption of those deals came out, she wanted to distance herself from them as much as possible.

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