HC Deb 30 November 1972 vol 847 cc595-7
2. Mr. Laurance Reed

asked the Minister of State for Defence whether the facilities at the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre will be made available for the testing of civil projects.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Antony Buck)

No plans exist for this at present.

Mr. Reed

I welcome my hon. Friend to Question Time in his new capacity. I wish him well in the responsibilities which he is undertaking. No doubt he knows that there is a good deal of local opposition to the scheme. However, is he aware that this is the only part of the United Kingdom continental shelf with water depths of up to 1,000 feet and, therefore, is unique from the point of view of testing underwater equipment.

Does my hon. Friend agree that if some way could be found to allow civilian projects to be tested at the centre, there would be less opposition, because Scots people would be convinced that here was a way in which they could boost their chances of getting more orders from North Sea oil development?

Mr. Buck

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for what he has said. Our Navy is not the biggest in the world, but it is the greatest and I am privileged to be the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy.

I have noted what my hon. Friend has said. Certainly the depths involved make this a unique site which is essential for its present purposes. I shall bear very much in mind the points which my hon. Friend made in the latter part of his Question.

12. Mr. Douglas

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the research facilities available within his Department on the subject of underwater technology.

Mr. Buck

Research work on underwater technology is carried out at a number of defence establishments. Those primarily concerned are the Admiralty Underwater Weapons Establishment Portland, the Admiralty Research Laboratory Teddington, the Naval Construction Research Establishment Dunfermline and the Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory Alverstoke, near Portsmouth. I hope to familiarise myself with the work of these establishments as soon as I can.

Mr. Douglas

I thank the Minister for that reply. Can he tell us whether this research information was made available to the IME Group, which is looking into the capability of British industry to cater for the needs of North Sea oil exploration as, in my opinion, the valuable research material available would be of great use, especially when we have to search for and to produce oil in very deep water?

Mr. Buck

Whether this precise information was made available, I cannot say. What I have checked on is that it is definitive policy, with which I agree completely, to make widely available information on these technological achievements. I shall do my best to see that it is done.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

May I be the second to congratulate my hon. Friend on his new appointment? Does he understand that with our only potential enemy possessing 400 U-boats, which cannot be called a defensive force, there is no more important subject for my hon. Friend to bring himself up to date on than this one?

Mr. Buck

I am obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. That is why I said that I intended to familiarise myself with these establishments as soon as possible. I shall bear in mind the points made by my hon. and gallant Friend.