Royal Navy Surface Fleet

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 2018.

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Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Independent, Luton North 12:00 am, 26th November 2018

What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of the size of the Royal Navy surface fleet.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

In the 2015 strategic defence and security review and the national shipbuilding strategy, the Government committed to maintaining a surface fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. HMS Queen Elizabeth, a powerful expression of national ambition and intent, is now in service and will be joined by new submarines, frigates and patrol vessels.

Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Independent, Luton North

Are we not desperately short of coastal defence vessels at a time when our borders and restored fishing grounds will need to be policed properly for the long term? If we ordered new such ships from British shipbuilders, we would secure thousands of jobs for the domestic economy and restore the strength of our vital coastal defences.

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

The hon. Gentleman obviously missed the Secretary of State’s announcement this week that we will be keeping the three batch 1 offshore patrol vessels.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a balance be struck between asserting our right to free passage in international waters and not unnecessarily aggravating strategic partners? Does he agree that the Royal Navy should bear that in mind carefully when planning ship routes through the South China sea?

Photo of Mark Lancaster Mark Lancaster The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I would like to think that we do find that balance. We have made three passages through the South China sea in recent months, and we are absolutely right to exercise our freedom of navigation rights.