asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many ships in service with the Royal Navy are at present capable of operating vertical take-off aircraft.
A number of ships in the Royal Navy would, to a varying degree, be capable of operating V/STOL aircraft.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he say how many ships he expects will be able to operate such aircraft by 1980?
By 1980 HMS "Invincible" should be commissioned. Possibly HMS "Hermes" will still be in commission by that time. Platforms on Royal fleet auxiliaries could be quickly converted for short-term operations.
Does the Secretary of State realise how important it is that the Navy should continue to have ships that can operate vertical takeoff aircraft, from the point of view of the prevention of war rather than waging war, because it is in this respect that manned aircaft have such an advantage over a missile?
As the hon. and gallant Gentleman will realise, with the introduction of the new class of Invincible through-deck cruisers, the platforms will be there if necessary.
I recognise the difficulties that the Secretary of State is having with certain of his hon. Friends, but is it not clear that British employment interests and British export and balance-of-payments interests require a very early go-ahead for the V /STOL aircraft required for these ships?
That is a different question, and one which arises later on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman should also understand that I do not have difficulties with my hon. Friends. There are occasional misunderstandings, but on the whole we get on well together.