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Eastern Atlantic (Naval Forces)

Volume 84: debated on Tuesday 22 October 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement concerning United Kingdom naval forces in the eastern Atlantic.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to paragraphs 432 to 445 of volume I of the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1985.

Will the strain on the defence budget have any effect on the ordering of the new frigates? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if it does, that will have serious repercussions for shipyards on the Tyne? Would it not make more sense to cancel the Trident project and concentrate the money on the more conventional service vessels?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a substantial amount of shipbuilding is now taking place at Swan Hunter and that a substantial amount of repair work is going to the Tyne repair yards. The answer to his question about Trident is that we could in no way protect this country against nuclear blackmail with destroyers and frigates.

Will my right hon. Friend bring us up to date on his thinking about the replacement of Fearless and Intrepid, which are needed for the marine reinforcement of the northern flank, and which are likely to end their useful lives by about 1990?

As my hon. Friend will be aware, both Intrepid and Fearless are undergoing refits. That will improve their capabilities and extend their lives until the mid-1990s. As the House has been told, we are examining the various amphibious options for their replacement. That examination is on schedule and, as we have said, we shall be in a position to take decisions next year.