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Submarines: Irish Sea

Volume 598: debated on Monday 13 July 2015

7. What discussions he has had with the Northern Ireland Executive on submarine activity in the Irish sea in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (900912)

There have been no such discussions between the Secretary of State, or other Defence Ministers, and the Northern Ireland Executive.

The Minister is well aware that I have been in correspondence with her regarding an incident on 15 April, when a Northern Ireland-registered fishing vessel had its gear snagged. The Ministry of Defence confirmed that it was not a vessel belonging to the Royal Navy. Would it be possible for the Minister and the MOD to pursue the matter of jurisdiction and who undertook such activity, in order to obtain compensation for the loss of fishing days?

I know that the hon. Lady is very concerned about this issue. She will know that the Royal Navy takes its responsibilities very seriously. Since 1993, it has adhered to the comprehensive code of practice and conduct for operations in the vicinity of fishing vessels, which ensures not only the safety of our ships and submarines, but other vessels. I can tell her that any NATO submarine under UK operational control would also have to conform to that code of practice, but obviously we are not responsible for other people’s submarine operations.

Does my hon. Friend agree that under the Scottish National party’s deeply flawed defence plans, this country would have far less ability to detect, intercept and deter potentially hostile vessels in the Irish sea and elsewhere? [Interruption.]

Order. Let me just remind the hon. Gentleman, in the most genial spirit but in terms that are unmistakable, that questions must relate to the responsibilities of Ministers, not of other parties. Let us leave it there.