HC Deb 10 April 1963 vol 675 cc1254-5
12. Mr. Willis

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty what proportion of Vote 4 of the Navy Estimates for 1963–64 is to be spent on anti-submarine techniques.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

It is not the practice to specify the proportion of effort as between separate fields of research and development connected with naval warfare; but I can assure the hon. Member that the effort on antisubmarine techniques is considerable.

Mr. Willis

Can the hon. Gentleman say, first, whether these figures include anything in connection with the research work at La Spezia; and, secondly, in view of the urgency of getting a new break-through in anti-submarine techniques, whether he is satisfied that sufficient is being spent?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

As far as I recall, the work at La Spezia comes under N.A.T.O. auspices and, therefore, would appear not on Naval Votes but under Ministry of Defence Votes. In reply to the second point, it is true that we have been devoting more and more of our research development effort to this vitally important aspect. It would be unwise to give facts and figures, because to do so would be to tell a potential enemy and give him warning, which might be up to ten years of warning, of just how much effort we are devoting in this direction. I assure the hon. Member that the Board of Admiralty takes this matter seriously.

Commander Courtney

Would not my hon. Friend agree that the most skilled anti-submarine techniques are quite useless without an adequate number of ships to operate these techniques in view of the very large number of potential enemy vessels with which we are faced? Is it not deplorable, therefore, that the hunter-killer submarine programme has been cut back?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

Yes, of course, one needs ships—and, incidentally, submarines—to operate these anti-submarine techniques. It is equally important to give them adequate practice and operational practice with our allies, an aspect to which we are devoting a great deal of attention.