Letter: British alternative to dubious Hercules

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Sir: I write concerning the current bribery scandal involving Lockheed, the American aerospace giant. It would be a mistake for Britain to order the upgraded Hercules aircraft from this company while there is doubt over its integrity, especially when there will a better 'homegrown' alternative available.

It is alleged that two Lockheed officials paid a bribe of dollars 1m to an Egyptian politician to secure orders for their upgraded Hercules aircraft. While this is being investigated the American Government has banned Lockheed from making new overseas sales. It looks as if the ban will not apply to Britain as it is not retrospective and export licences to Britain have already been agreed, but there is a more attractive alternative available.

The European consortium, in which British Aerospace is a major partner, is developing a Future Large Aircraft (FLA) which will outperform the ageing American Hercules. It will be an aircraft to take us well into the next century, covering all of our defence air-transport needs with lower running costs. It is also important to note that ordering the part-British FLA will secure thousands of British jobs, bring in billions of pounds in sales and secure Britain's part in the manufacture of the new Euro Airbus.

We will not know the outcome of the investigation into the alleged Lockheed bribe until next year. In the meantime, it would be very unwise of the Government to consider buying the Lockheed aircraft while the company's integrity is in question. They would also be putting at risk many thousands of British jobs and British expertise accumulated over decades.

If Britain is to remain a leading manufacturer of aeronautical systems then the British Government must not turn its back on the FLA project, on which so much work is dependent, and not turn its back on our Euro partners, who will proceed with the project without us. We have a vital national interest in maintaining our technological leadership in aerospace and keeping our position at the forefront of European developments.

Yours sincerely,

MARK HENDRICK

MEP for Lancashire Central

(Labour and Co-operative)

Blackpool, Lancashire

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