To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what object HMS Tireless recently hit while sailing in the Arctic; and if he will make a statement. 
[holding answer 11 June 2003]: HMS Tireless suffered some external damage as a result of contact with a free-floating object. It is unfortunate that both surface vessels and submarines occasionally suffer damage from hitting free-floating objects such as large timbers or containers which have fallen from ships.
Publication of information on the precise nature of the free-floating object could provide an indication of the location of a submarine at the time of the contact. I am, therefore, withholding information on the precise category of free-floating object, in accordance with Exemption 1a of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, which relates to national security.