Election '97: Labour pledge on Eurofighters

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Labour gave a major boost to Britain's defence industry yesterday with a firm pledge to go ahead with plans to purchase 232 Eurofighters. Tory politicians had raised doubts about Labour's commitment to the full project, which will cost British taxpayers pounds 15.4bn. Some 40,000 jobs around the country depend on the success of the four-nation programme.

Dr David Clark, the party's defence spokesman, said he had written to the defence ministers of Britain's Eurofighter partners. He confirmed in personal letters to Germany's Volker Ruehe, Italy's Beniamino Andreatta and Eduardo Serra that a future Labour government would press ahead with plans to buy 232 jets for the RAF. The move will increase pressure on Germany to break the financing deadlock threatening the future of the Eurofighter project. Labour said: "Eurofighter is vital to meet the demands of the armed forces."