Orders of the Day — The Royal Navy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 19th July 1982.

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Photo of Mr Denzil Davies Mr Denzil Davies , Llanelli 5:20 pm, 19th July 1982

I cannot see 45 per cent. of the costs of the Trident coming back from the United States.

I move on to the state of the Royal Navy which was bequeathed to this Government by the last Labour Administration. In our last debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Duffy) pointed out what the position was. He said that 96 major warships and submarines other than Polaris were in existence when the Conservative Government took office. By April of this year, before the Falklands crisis—there have been some changes since then—the figure was down to 86. Despite the recent announcement, we shall see a further decline by the end of the decade. Of the 27 major warships that have entered service since 1979 or that will enter service over the next five years, only four have been ordered by the present Government.

The Minister confirmed that the figure of destroyers and frigates—major warships—will now be 50, of which 42 will be operational. We are now to have three aircraft carriers, but apparently we shall still only have two dockyards.

The Minister also mentioned weapons and new equipment. Before the Falklands crisis, I do not remember any urgency over ordering the light-weight Sea Wolf system which would have been so helpful in the Falklands. Now apparently it is a splendid weapon, but there was not much urgency before. Then there was the Sea Eagle, which apparently is far superior to the Exocet. Nothing much was done about that, either. But immediately after hostilities ended, the Secretary of State appeared on television standing in front of a Sea Eagle saying what a splendid weapon it was. Why was not it a splendid weapon before the Falklands campaign—[HON. MEMBERS: "It was."] Then why did not the Government order it?