Rosyth Dockyard

Part of Petitions – in the House of Commons at 9:49 pm on 25th November 1992.

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Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence) 9:49 pm, 25th November 1992

I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few sentences in support of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms. Squire), who introduced the debate with great skill and considerable conviction. One should acknowledge her persistence in ensuring that the debate took place.

It would also be wrong of me not to congratulate the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker). It appears that he is impervious to change. Prime Ministers come and go and reshuffles take place, one after the other, but still he ploughs an occasionally solitary furrow as the guardian of the defence interests of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Association in Scotland. That is a rare achievement and, even on a serious occasion such as this, one should perhaps acknowledge it.

My interest in the debate stems partly from the fact that my constituency lies within Fife. Although the economic consequences of the closure of Rosyth might not affect north-east Fife with quite the same severity as it would undoubtedly affect the constituency of the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West, any substantial reduction in economic activity that would occur as a result of closure would have a significant effect on the economy of Fife as a whole and, indeed, on the economy of central Scotland.

The military justification for the retention of the dockyard is overwhelming. Before I deal with that, I should like to note that, if the dockyard closed, the military arguments for retaining the base would be less strong than at present. It is not unreasonable to assume that if the dockyard closed, in due course the base would also go. The economic and employment consequences would be extremely severe.

It cannot be right from a military or security point of view to put all one's ship repairing resources and facilities in one location. I ask the House to think about it in terms of something as simple as sabotage. Let us suppose that all the facilities were located on the south coast of England. The technology of ballistic missiles is now so advanced that some countries in the middle east have the ability to put ballistic missiles into western Europe and the mainland of the United Kingdom. That may seem improbable, but only a couple of years ago we were engaged in a conflict with someone who would have had no compunction, if he had had the capacity to do it, about firing ballistic missiles at the mainland of the United Kingdom.

If perchance or even by design such a missile landed on the sole ship repairing facility, the damage to the ability of the United Kingdom to conduct its defence affairs could be substantial. It cannot make sense for the moment to concentrate all our facilities in one location. If the proper defence of the United Kingdom is to be achieved, it is inevitable that there must be two separate locations.

I have no discomfort in arguing for Trident submarines to be refitted at Rosyth, because I believe in the independent nuclear deterrent. I believe in a four-boat Trident fleet. The more boats in the fleet, the better opportunities there will be for refitting. The Minister should also bear it in mind that it would be a strange irony if the economic advantage to be derived from refitting nuclear submarines at Rosyth was taken away while the facilities at Rosyth were used for the storage of decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines for which no final resting place has yet been found.

For the reasons that I have given and in view of the powerful arguments made by the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West, I support the proposal that surface fleet work should be located at Devonport and the refit of nuclear submarines should be sent to Rosyth, where the facilities are available and the skills and the capacity of the work force are well proven.