HC Deb 10 April 1963 vol 675 cc1250-2
5 and 6. Commander Courtney

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (1) what weapons, apart from carrier-borne aircraft, are available for surface action by cruisers, destroyers and escorts of the Royal Navy as a counter to the surface-to-surface guided-missile systems fitted in the Kynda, Krupny, Kildin, Osa and Komar classes of Soviet warships;

(2) whether a guided missile system for use against surface vessels is under development for the Royal Navy; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

In our view, the best answer to this threat is the carrier-borne aircraft, bearing in mind that seaborne aircraft can be employed in many other offensive and defensive rôles.

Commander Courtney

Is my hon. Friend aware of the serious situation which could arise if surface forces of the Royal Navy were faced by missile-armed Soviet surface forces in the absence of carrier-borne aircraft?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

My noble Friend the First Lord and I are very well aware of that fact. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend is out of breath. He must have run all the way from the Savoy Hotel.

Mr. Cronin

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point about the efficacy of carrier-borne aircraft, but is it not the case that they cannot operate in thick weather? Can the hon. Gentleman say why it is that cruisers and destroyers of the Royal Navy are so much behind equivalent vessels in the Russian Navy in their armament?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

If the hon. Gentleman would like to spend a day at sea in thick weather he would see that our all-weather aircraft can operate under the most extraordinarily difficult conditions. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has been".] Perhaps on that occasion the weather was not as thick as it can be. I concede that the Russians have specialised in missiles and we have not. We must bear in mind that the Russians have never had any aircraft carriers in their Navy.

Commander Courtney

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.