Mr Peter Bessell: Registered fleet.
Sir Peter Kirk: ...considering the whole question of the operation of the Royal dockyards, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that the very nature of the dockyards and the need for a close association with the Fleet makes this a very difficult question indeed.
Sir Peter Kirk: We have always planned to meet the longer-range threat by other means, such as nuclear fleet submarines and aircraft deployed from ships. We believe that this will be a more satisfactory way of dealing with the long-range threat.
Mr Peter Hardy: May I ask the hon. Gentleman to take great care that the remaining 4,300 officers of Flag Rank in the Royal Navy or Royal Marines are not sent to sea, in case the very buoyancy of the Fleet is considerably reduced?
Sir Peter Kirk: The hon. Gentleman from his experience in my office, will know how difficult this problem is. The dockyards are so closely bound up with the Fleet that it is almost impossible to conceive a way of hiving them off. However, we have been looking into this matter.
Sir Peter Kirk: That is one of the factors we are bearing in mind in the review. We are anxious to use these volunteers in the most effective means for the support of the Fleet.
Sir Peter Kirk: That was precisely why we decided to run on "Ark Royal". We have integral air available for the support of the Fleet for the foreseeable future and intend to develop it in that way.
Sir Peter Kirk: A number of Royal Fleet Auxiliary refits are at present in prospect and ship-repairing firms in various areas, including Merseyside, have been, or will be, invited to tender for this work.
Mr Peter Walker: ...policy that we can have suitable and effective negotiations with third countries. I hope that out of those negotiations with third countries will come substantial benefit to the British fishing fleet.
Peter Viggers: While recognising the quality and sophistication of type 42 and type 22 frigates and their importance to the Fleet, does the Minister agree that their cost is now so great that we should look for alternatives that are cheaper?
Peter Viggers: Does the Minister agree that the greatest need at the moment in the fleet is for a smaller, robust and cheaper ship of about 2,000 tons which would have a helicopter-carrying capacity without a hangar capacity and that we could perhaps seek export orders in this regard as well?
Mr Peter Rees: I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to mislead himself or the House, but he will realise that whatever occurred in the Fleet Street case occurred under the previous Administration.
Peter Viggers: Can the Minister announce results of the review of training and shore establishments supporting the fleet?
Mr Peter Blaker: ...we explained in Cmnd. 8288, our general strategy involves keeping two carriers in service throughout the 1980s and beyond. We therefore plan to phase out HMS "Hermes" once HMS "Ark Royal" joins the Fleet.
Mr Peter Blaker: With the exception of HMS "Endurance", whose long-term future we shall be considering, one warship and three Royal Fleet Auxiliaries are due to be disposed of by the end of next year.
Mr Peter Griffiths: ...that this further series of blows has fallen heavily on the country's great naval ports, one of which is in my constituency? Will he consider again the wisdom of giving further protection to our fleet by the destruction of the bases from which the aircraft are making their attacks?
Mr Peter Walker: I shall explain the hon. Gentleman's earlier statement about the decline of the fishing industry. Such decline as took place in the long-distance fleet happened before I took office. It was due to the loss of Icelandic waters and had nothing to do with the Common Market. However, the number of vessels elsewhere has increased.
Mr Peter Walker: We have been negotiating quota arrangements that will be of interest to the long distance fleet. We shall also be negotiating restructuring arrangements that will be of considerable importance. I am optimistic that in that sphere there will be considerable improvement on the proposals that were previously made.
Mr Peter Walker: We shall have to examine the restructuring proposals, particularly in terms of the problems encountered by the long distance fleet. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the loss of the Icelandic waters was a considerable blow. Negotiations on the 200-mile limit were conducted in 1976 by a former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.
Mr Peter Griffiths: Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he has no proposals to extend his suggestions beyond the royal dockyards to include the fleet maintenance base at Portsmouth, which has already made quite sufficient sacrifices in the cause of further economies?