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UK Territorial Waters

Volume 683: debated on Monday 2 November 2020

What recent steps his Department has taken to protect UK territorial waters in the (a) north Atlantic and (b) North sea. (908038)

What recent steps his Department has taken to protect UK territorial waters in the (a) north Atlantic and (b) North sea. (908042)

The protection of UK territorial waters is a cross-Government responsibility.  The Ministry of Defence contributes to this by providing a multi-layered capability to deter incursions into territorial waters. This includes a range of assets based in Scotland, from surface ships and submarines based on the Clyde to the new Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth. That is a good example of how United Kingdom defence contributes to the security of all these islands.

Can the Secretary of State tell us his plans to ensure that our armed forces can cope with multiple tasks, including combating people and drug trafficking, and foreign incursion into our territorial waters and airspace, as has been seen recently? Will they specifically live up to the Government’s promise to establish a frigate factory on the Clyde?

First of all, the hon. Gentleman will know that one of the ways in which we cope with securing our borders—both inside and further afield internationally—is by burden sharing and working across a range of agencies, including with the Scottish Government, who have control of fisheries protection. On the issue of a frigate factory, first and foremost, the last two major shipbuilding contracts for defence have both been placed in Scotland: the Type 26 on the Clyde and the Type 31 at Rosyth. Good United Kingdom shipbuilding will, of course, always involve Scotland—as long as Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom.

Scottish waters comprise over 60% of the UK’s waters, yet we have no surface warships. In fact, the most northerly surface warship base is located at the south coast of England, which means that scrambling a fleet ready escort takes over 24 hours to reach Scottish waters. Given that there are almost monthly transgressions into Scottish waters and we need regular patrols, why is the Rosyth base being scrapped?

The hon. Gentleman’s claim could have some credibility if his party was not busy trying to scrap the HM submarine base on the Clyde and to push the submarines out of Scotland.