THE Government is likely to allow the US to use the RAF Fylingdales radar station for its controversial missile defence programme.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon told the Commons that his preliminary conclusion was to agree to a US request to upgrade the early-warning station on the North York Moors for its "Son of Star Wars" defensive shield.

Mr Hoon said the final decision had still not been taken, but MPs were convinced it would be a formality.

The Fylingdales upgrade would be paid for by the US, but Mr Hoon said the cost of extending the missile shield to cover the UK would have to be met by a future British government.

Although Mr Hoon said the Fylingdales upgrade did not commit Britain to any further involvement in missile defence, he left MPs in little doubt that the Government favoured wider participation.

He said: "A Government's first duty is to protect its citizens, and this is a duty which this Government will not shirk from undertaking."

But Kevan Jones, North Durham MP and member of the Commons Defence Committee, said missile defence was primarily about protecting the US.