§ 41. Mr. Hamling
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will now state Her Majesty's Government's policy regarding the building of small fast, and cheap ships for the Royal Navy; and whether he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Morris
Our broad plans for classes of new naval construction remain as announced in Cmnd. 3357. We are also examining our requirement for the next generation of smaller ships, needed for mine counter-measures and 1103 patrol duties, but it is too early to say what our plans will be.
§ Mr. Hamling
Is my hon. Friend aware that existing ships in the Royal Navy are very costly and have very sophisticated weapons systems? Surely it would be a better bargain for the taxpayer if we could have smaller and faster ships?
§ Mr. Morris
I am sure that my hon. Friend is fully aware of the Government's concern to reduce defence costs. My right hon. Friend spelled this out in the Defence Review and the debate. I can assure my hon. Friend that the new classes of ships which we are developing are aimed at providing the most cost-effective package possible.
§ Dame Irene Ward
But can I find out, having now tried to ask three Ministers, who will look after the Merchant Navy when we have completed all our withdrawals? Can we have some more Royal Navy ships so that our Merchant Navy does not have to sail the seas without its proper and adequate protection? It is scandalous that nothing has been done to reassure us about this.
§ Mr. Morris
This does not arise on this Question, and I understand that it was answered fully in a previous debate.