As the hon. Gentleman will know, there has been a significant increase—approximately 20 per cent. in real terms — in expenditure on the armed services since the fiscal year 1978–79. That has involved a substantial amount of re-equipment, including re-equipment for the Royal Navy. As for the premature voluntary retirement figures, which are often cited as a symptom of morale, those figures in the Royal Navy have stabilised and the trend is down.
Does my hon. Friend agree that nothing could depress the morale either of our armed forces or anybody else in this country who is interested in defence more than the plans of the Opposition to abolish Trident, the nuclear deterrent, and to leave this country vulnerable to nuclear blackmail?
Does the Minister not think that morale in the Royal Navy must suffer when, given the mining threat, they see that little more than half the minesweepers and minehunters that were ordered under the £1 billion modernisation programme are likely to come on stream by the 1995 deadline, given the curbs on defence spending?
Does the Minister not agree that while the PVR rates may have stabilised, they have stabilised at the lowest figure since the mid-1970s, when unemployment was considerably lower than it is now, and that there is little incentive for those individuals who wish to remain in the Royal Navy to do so, given the unpleasantness that much of their work pattern is forcing upon them?