HC Deb 09 July 1958 vol 591 c387
31. Mr. Wall

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty the number of battleships, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, fleet minesweepers, and motor, gun, or torpedo boats that will be disposed of in the year 1958.

Mr. R. Allan

Decisions have been taken to dispose of 5 cruisers, 7 destroyers, 33 frigates, 9 ocean minesweepers and 31 fast patrol boats and motor, gun, or torpedo boats.

Mr. Wall

Is my hon. Friend aware that these figures, taken together with the figures of ships scrapped in 1956–57 show that a half to a third of the offensive strength of the Royal Navy has been disposed of without replacement? That excludes frigates and minesweepers, which are purely defensive vessels. May we have an assurance that adequate replacements are being provided to strengthen the offensive side of the Royal Navy?

Mr. Allan

I know the concern which is felt about the position of the Reserve Fleet, but I am sure that my hon. Friend realises that in present circumstances we must reduce the Reserve Fleet if only to maintain and develop the Active Fleet. In doing this, we discard only those ships whose condition or characteristics appear to be of least use. For instance, all the ships that I have mentioned except eighteen of the patrol boats are of prewar or war-time construction. It is, of course, the intention to sell rather than scrap the patrol boats. With regard to replacements, this year and next year 2 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers, 13 destroyers or frigates, 16 minesweepers, 17 miscellaneous craft and a number of submarines will come into service for the first time either as new ships or completely modernised.

Mr. H. Hynd

In view of this great reduction in the number of ships, how many admirals will be available for scrapping or disposal?

Mr. Allan

That is another question, but I hope that the hon. Member saw recently that we have already reduced the number of admirals by fourteen this year.