asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will consult with his European colleagues with a view to interesting them further in improving the defence of the sea supply routes on which their countries and the United Kingdom depend, and in a joint programme of building more warships to keep these routes safe.
Regular discussions are already held with our European and NATO allies on these topics. We have constantly emphasised the importance of protecting Europe's sea supply routes and are doing all we can to further collaboration in shipbuilding as in other areas of mutual interest.
I am glad to hear my hon. Friend say that. However, will he remind our Western European colleagues that there are approximately 1,000 Western European ships at sea at any given time East of Suez, and that the great tankers could represent an easy target for international terrorists? Will he remind our colleagues that money spent now might prevent terrorism later?
As my hon. Friend knows, we have constantly emphasised the potential danger to Western trade routes which is posed by a number of threats. That concern lies behind our determination to ensure that we in NATO possess balanced forces capable of worldwide deployment in this connection.