HC Deb 26 November 1970 vol 807 cc601-2
34. Mr. Wilkinson

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether the amphibious forces are to be provided with their own close air support when the Royal Navy inventory of strike carriers is reduced to a single vessel as presaged in paragraphs 15 to 17 of the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy, 1970.

Lord Balniel

Our plans will continue to provide for the amphibious forces to receive air support appropriate to the operations in which they are engaged.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my right hon. Friend consider, when "Hermes" is converted to a commando rôle, equipping her both with Jaguar and with Harrier aircraft, which will provide close support as Marines go ashore and help equip forward groups in the beach-heads?

Lord Balniel

We have no plans for purchasing the marine version of the Jaguar, but we are studying the possibility of operating V/STOL aircraft from ships of this nature, but we have not made a decision at the moment.

Dr. David Owen

Would the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the previous Administration decided to operate V/STOL aircraft in a trial rôle off H.M.S. "Hermes" when she had been converted to a commando carrier?

Lord Balniel

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is right. As I said, we are studying the possibility of such operations at the moment.