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Type 42 Destroyer

Volume 24: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is satisfied that the type 42 destroyer is properly constructed to resist the effect of all known air-to-ship and ship-to-ship missiles.


asked the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the implications of the destruction of HMS "Sheffield" by an air-launched surface-skimming missile.

No ship can be constructed to resist the effect of all known anti-ship missiles. The circumstances and implications of the attack on HMS "Sheffield" are, however, being studied. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has made clear, we shall take full account of the lessons to be learnt from current operations in determining whether any changes are needed within the general framework of the policy announced last year.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. In view of the sinking of HMS "Sheffield" and, in particular, the damage to the ship caused by fire, is my hon. Friend satisfied that the amount of aluminium used in the superstructure does not give it an unreasonable proneness to damage by fire? By the same token, does he believe that conventional wiring should now be used in warships?

Those are precisely the kinds of detailed points that will be examined once we are in a position to know the full operational details, after the operation is satisfactorily concluded.

Is not the brutal lesson of "Sheffield" either that one goes in and destroys the bases from which these weapons are launched or that one withdraws the task force? Whereas some of us might want to withdraw the task force, is it a fact that the SAS or other operational troops did their best to go on to the South American mainland and destroy the bases?

The hon. Gentleman is following press speculation, as he is entitled to do. On his question about the so-called brutal lesson of "Sheffield", I would say that nothing is quite as black or as white as he suggests.

Is not one of the assessments that should be drawn from this instance the fact that it does not matter how sophisticated are one's weapons if one's adversary has weapons that are more sophisticated? Does this not show the illogicality of the argument of those who say that we have atomic missiles that can destroy the world 10 times over, since it means nothing if one is not capable of getting one of those missiles to the target?

There is a good deal of military force in what the hon. Gentleman says. There is no point in having any weapon unless the delivery system also exists.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.