HC Deb 15 February 1965 vol 706 cc820-1
7. Mr. Pounder

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will give an assurance that the Belfast shipyard will be invited to tender for future submarine orders for the Admiralty.

Mr. Mayhew

I cannot give an unqualified assurance, because it is unlikely that any more conventional submarines will be ordered for the Royal Navy. For nuclear-powered submarines, invitations to tender must take into account the availability of the special facilities needed to do the job.

Mr. Pounder

Would the Minister agree that, in view of the considerable changes which are taking place in the principles of submarine construction, perhaps the time has come for a review of the existing list on which there are only three builders?

Mr. Mayhew

We have to distinguish between conventional and nuclear-powered submarines. We do not propose to order further conventional submarines. For the nuclear-powered submarine, a very special capital investment is involved, and this is a big factor.

Commander Courtney

If, to judge by a reply to an earlier Question, the right hon. Gentleman envisages hastening the SKK building programme, is there not an argument for considering a third nuclear yard for building submarines?

Mr. Mayhew

I am certainly not ruling this out, but it is not for me to make recommendations of that kind. In allocating existing orders, this is a factor which we have to bear in mind.