HC Deb 14 February 1968 vol 758 cc1336-7
26. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what was the highest number of anti-submarine vessels in commission at one time during the war of 1939–45; and what is the number of anti-submarine vessels in commission at the present time.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Maurice Foley)

In March 1945, there were approximately 875 sloops, frigates, corvettes and destroyers. These included ships of the Royal Navy, and Commonwealth and Allied navies. I regret that I cannot break this figure down to show the Royal Navy contribution without the expenditure of a disproportionate amount of time and effort. Today, 71 Royal Navy ships with an anti-submarine capability are in commission; 27 of the 71 carry helicopters with an anti-submarine capability. Others are being converted to carry helicopters.

Captain Elliot

Does not the Under-Secretary find this contrast thoroughly alarming? In view of the giant strides that have been made in the effectiveness, as well as in the numbers, of submarines possessed by potential enemies, is it not very strange, to put it mildly, that Her Majesty's Government should have cut the Hunter nuclear killer anti-submarine submarines?

Mr. Foley

There are financial limitations on the amount of insurance that we can afford against any threat; but I am satisfied that we are making a major contribution to the allied forces available.

27. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the classes of vessels and the number of vessels in each class which comprise the predominantly anti-submarine vessels in commission at the present time.

Mr. Foley

As I have already stated, a total of 71 Royal Navy ships have an anti-submarine capability. With permission, I will write to the hon. and gallant Gentleman giving the details he requires.

Captain Elliot

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that several classes of these ships are of comparatively little Practical value in anti-submarine warfare?

Mr. Foley

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Mayhew

When my hon. Friend says that there are financial limitations on our anti-submarine effort, will he bear in mind that easily the most cost-effective way of contributing to our anti-submarine effort would be to carry on with the nuclear Hunter-killer submarines?

Mr. Foley

We are so carrying on.