HC Deb 18 December 1968 vol 775 c1360
10. Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what improvements he is making in plans for the future defence of British merchant shipping; and whether he will make a statement.

Dr. David Owen

Measures for merchant ship protection are under constant review and the situation is discussed regularly with shipowners in the Shipping Defence Advisory Committee.

Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles

Does the Minister appreciate the tremendous concern among ship-owners and service planners on the extent of this problem? Will he consider, as a constructive suggestion, that selected merchant ships should be gradually fitted with platforms from which helicopters can operate in emergency?

Dr. Owen

We will consider all constructive suggestions, particularly those from the hon. and gallant Gentleman.

Mr. Hector Hughes

In view of recent Press reports of foreign ships in and about the North Sea what are the Government doing to increase the strength of the protection squadron there?

Dr. Owen

We have a very adequate protection squadron which is constantly at sea, and we have had no complaints that they are not carrying out their duties satisfactorily.