HC Deb 20 July 1972 vol 841 c892
21. Captain W. Elliot

asked the Minister of State for Defence what plans he has to increase the number of ships in reserve available for anti-submarine duties; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kirk

It is not part of our current policy to maintain a large reserve fleet, although from time to time ships that do not form part of the operational fleet are maintained at Chatham, thereby providing a reserve for the quick replacement of ships of the active fleet should this be necessary.

Captain Elliot

Is my hon. Friend aware that that was not a very satisfactory answer? Would he not agree that the potential submarine threat is very great and that our defences against it must be given top priority? Would he not agree that our reserve forces are a most important part of that defence?

Mr. Kirk

As my hon. and"gallant Friend says, it is a question of priorities. We are using every available hull at the moment and we have kept in operation hulls which were planned to be scrapped. If we have ships that we can keep in the standby squadron at Chatham, we do so, but the problem is that these tend to be old hulls which need long and costly refitting before they are available for standby.