HC Deb 07 March 1956 vol 549 cc2083-4
11. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty if he will state the annual cost of maintaining the four King George V class battleships and H.M.S. "Vanguard" in reserve; and the estimated cost of bringing these ships to a state of operational readiness.

Mr. Ward

The annual cost of keeping Her Majesty's ship "Vanguard" in reserve is about £700,000. The annual cost for the four ships of the "King George V" class is £46,000. Most of this is being spent on the "King George V" herself.

The additional annual cost if all these four ships were to be dehumidified, preserved and effectively maintained in their present condition would be about £375,000.

The estimated cost of bringing these four ships to a state of readiness is at least £4 million. The battleships of the "King George V" class are unmodernised, however, and their operational value would be limited accordingly. The cost of modernisation would be prohibitive.

Mr. Robinson

In view of that reply, can the hon. Gentleman now say whether any decision has been taken as to the future of these ships and whether they are at last going to be scrapped?

Mr. Ward

There is no question of scrapping the "Vanguard." The other four battleships are in extended reserve, and I think it would be unwise and imprudent to scrap them until it is certain that they have reached the end of their lives.

Commander Agnew

Can my hon. Friend say in the case of H.M.S. "Vanguard" whether the state of readiness to which he referred is a state of readiness for limited warfare or for the more severe forms of warfare?

Mr. Ward

Ships in operational reserve can be sent to sea quickly in any kind of warfare.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Has the hon. Gentleman been up to Gareloch to see the ships for himself and, if so, is he satisfied with the amount of expenditure taking place there?

Mr. Ward

We are not spending much on the four "King George V" class battleships. I have not been to see them myself, but I know more or less what condition they are in.

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