I cannot reveal the number of SSNs that were participating in the Falkland operation. We never reveal matters of that kind. We hope to have 17 SSNs in the Fleet by the end of the decade, and the programme for their refit can be done in Rosyth and Devonport. My hon. Friend does not believe that that is the case, and I respect his judgment, but that is the decision that we have had to come to.
The manpower plans of the Royal Navy too will, of course, need to be reviewed in the context of decisions on ships and equipment and the consequential effect on naval shore posts. This review will take a little time to complete, since it must take account also of our studies in depth of the Falklands' campaign.
The "Statement on the Defence Estimates" which I present to Parliament today represents, in the same form and covering the same period as its predecessors, the defence programmes and the activities of our Armed Forces in the period leading up to the beginning of this financial year. I believe that the continuity of these statements is important, and has proved of value to Parliament over many years. That the statement contains the names of ships tragically lost or of matters overtaken in the events of the past few weeks does not negate its value, particularly with reference to the main threat to the United Kingdom from the Soviet Union.
It was, I believe, in accordance with the general mood of the House that publication of the statement was delayed at the outset of the Falklands crisis. Our debate today therefore takes place several weeks later than is normal. In the intervening period our Armed Forces have been engaged in one of the most brilliantly conducted military operations of recent times.
By their bravery and by their skill, by their heroism and by their sacrifice, they have restored the liberty and rights of the Falkland Islanders. In so doing, they have demonstrated the principles for which we as a nation stand, and for which we are prepared to fight. Let those who might seek to attack our freedom, and that of the Western Alliance, be warned. Our defences are strong and it is our earnest intention to strengthen them further, year by year.