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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords. We are expecting to take delivery of the first Eurofighters in the year 2002. The delivery period will take place between 2002 and 2014. In the initial stages it will be armed with the AMRAAM missile. However, during the latter stages of taking delivery of the Eurofighter we shall arm it with the superior capability offered by the Meteor missile system. We hope that that will be towards the end of the decade. The supply of Eurofighters will be built up over that period, reaching a peak after about 2005, when we hope to take delivery of approximately 20 or so a year.

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I thank the noble Lord for his support on heavy-lift. He asked specifically about jobs. I have a full breakdown on a number of different job issues. I believe that it may be helpful if I write to the noble Lord with that breakdown. I believe that it is rather invidious to go into detail on where the jobs will be concentrated. However, in relation to heavy airlift, the concentration of jobs is likely to be in the north-west of England and, of course, in Broughton. Therefore, approximately 3,500 jobs in Broughton will be sustained directly by the decision on the A400M. We hope that that will build to approximately 10,000 jobs in the supporting industries which we believe, and which the company tell us, will flourish as a result.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, perhaps I may congratulate my noble friend for four reasons: first, on ensuring that the Royal Air Force will have adequate transport aircraft, and particularly the heavy-lift which has long been needed and was certainly needed before the last election. I also thank her for ensuring that the Eurofighter will be a highly competitive aircraft. Even though we are talking of enormous cost, will it not also be a great deal cheaper than the F22, its possible competitor? Thirdly, I thank my noble friend for ensuring that Britain retains the highest level of technological capacity in this field. Fourthly, and not least important, does my noble friend accept that the Government deserve congratulation on their approach to procurement? If they had not adopted that approach, the British taxpayer would be paying a great deal more.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I am delighted to accept all those splendid bouquets from my noble friend. It is a personal delight to me that we have managed to make these decisions. As your Lordships know, as the Minister for Defence Procurement this issue has been placed particularly on my desk and, before me, that of my noble friend Lord Gilbert, who, of course, contributed very heavily to these decisions.

I agree with my noble friend about the heavy-lift requirements. We have scarcely undertaken an operation in which one or other of your Lordships has not had occasion to remind us that we should make progress on this matter; and quite right, too.

With regard to the Eurofighter, the comparison figures that I have show that it will cost some 60 million dollars per aircraft--that is, approximately £40.9 million--and the F22, some 120 million dollars. I shall have to leave noble Lords to their excellent arithmetic to work out the equivalent in pounds. However, even I can see that the Eurofighter is half the cost of the F22, a point about which we might remind the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I know that he has concerns on that front.

The procurement decision is enormously important in terms of technical capability and jobs, about which noble Lords opposite were asking. I refer not only to the number of jobs but to their quality and calibre.

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They are highly technical and well paid jobs, and they should be a source of considerable prosperity to the regions where they will be concentrated.

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, the Minister has produced a considerable shopping list. Some of the figures that she mentioned give us an indication of what we are about to spend. Having made the calculations, inexact as they must be, perhaps I may ask whether she assumes that the overall defence budget of this country and of the Government will be substantially increased as a result of the shopping list that has now been produced. If so, would that have implications for other spending departments of the United Kingdom Government?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: No, my Lords. I do not believe that there are any implications for other spending departments in what my noble friend has quite rightly described as a considerable shopping list. Of course, I fully appreciate that in absolute terms the list is expensive. The Meteor comes in at approximately £1 billion over its lifetime; the A400M at £3.5 billion; and the C-17 at £0.5 billion over the seven-year period. That has been well understood.

As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, the figures have been worked through by those who have responsibility for these matters within the Ministry of Defence. Your Lordships will not be surprised to know that a great deal of interest in them has also been shown throughout Whitehall. Of course it has. It is quite right that the figures are crawled over. They are within the MoD's budget.

Despite one or two noble Lords having expressed doubts last week about our willingness within the MoD to put the needs for these capabilities before everything else, I hope that today's decisions have made it clear to all your Lordships that we have, indeed, put the capability of our Armed Forces first.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, will my noble friend take note that, unlike in some quarters in this House, what she has said today is welcomed by the Labour Benches? The decision to order Meteor, the A400M and, of course, to recommend Rolls-Royce as the power unit is good news. It keeps us in the forefront of technology and creates many jobs in this country. Therefore, will she please accept our congratulations and pass them on to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence? She also knows of my interest in the heavy-lift programme. Perhaps I may ask her whether the A400M is a preferred supply.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for raising those points and, of course, I shall convey his thanks to my right honourable friend. I agree with everything that he said about ensuring that we remain in the forefront of technology. I agree also with his point with regard to jobs. In making these decisions it is important that we look at the competitive edge. We should always try to

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ensure that we have viable competition for the future. That consideration may not always be terribly clear when one is looking from the outside of a project.

I shall take advice on the specific question that my noble friend asked me. If he will bear with me, I shall write to him on the point that he raised about the preferred supplier and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, with, I am sure, all Members of the House I welcome the content of the Statement, particularly the decision to go ahead with the C-17. The fact that that proposal was trailed in the SDR two years ago and that it has taken so long to reach it is obviously a great shame. Nevertheless, we are there and I am delighted to hear it.

I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that 20 years ago the Royal Air Force had great difficulty with a large number of different types of aircraft in its inventory which, inevitably, had a roll-on cost effect on training and spare supply. I hope that in doing the sums for our future transport requirements the fact that there may be more than one, two or even three types of aircraft in that inventory will be looked into very carefully.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I do assure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, that that point has been taken into consideration. The fact is that a period of overlap exists between releasing the leased C-17s and the incoming A400Ms. I do not believe that it will be very long. I would not expect it to be longer than a year or two. Of course there will be the C130Js, so the lease period is for about seven years. We expect them to see the A440Ms coming into service. The overlap which the noble Lord draws to our attention is something about which we should be very careful, and one would expect his former colleagues in the Ministry of Defence to be very vigilant on this issue. I assure him that they have been, and I am sure that they will continue to be.

As to the length of time it has taken on the C-17s, I stress that although the decisions over the short-term issue over the lease are completely separate, in one sense, to the longer-term issue, they are inevitably linked. It was very important when making these decisions to make sure that the decision was going to be properly cost effective, that we were not going to have decisions that looked as if they were not going to be meshed together, that they were cost-cutting or that there was some other financial deficit in what we were considering. I am sorry that this has taken a longer period than originally expected, but I am delighted that we have made the decision now.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, I also express relief on the Meteor decision well made. Would the Minister agree with me that the timing of this announcement could not be better, given the Minister's visit to Athens to secure, we hope, the first Eurofighter export order?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: I have to tell the noble Viscount that that is completely fortuitous. I

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would not like any of your Lordships to believe that this decision was taken on the basis of where the next visit of the Minister of Defence Procurement was likely to take place. The noble Viscount is quite right. Not only is this good news in relation to that particular visit, but it is very good news in relation to other countries to which we may wish to sell the aircraft. I hope that by displaying our confidence we will show other countries, by what we do as well as what we say, that we do mean business.

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