HC Deb 06 April 1976 vol 909 cc217-8
19. Mr. Dan Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what effect the recently announced reductions in defence expenditure in 1977 to 1980 will have on the front-line capability of the Royal Air Force.

Mr. Brynmor John

The only change affecting the RAF's front-line capability will be the withdrawal of the Belfast squadron. There will be no significant military penalty, since we shall be retaining increased numbers of VC10s and Hercules. The remaining economies are very largely confined to those areas of the support structure which are not directly and immediately in support of front line units.

Mr. Jones

I thank the Minister for that reply. Has he any misgivings of any character in relation to the significance of my Questions?

Mr. John

I thank my hon. Friend for that supplementary question—which I barely understand. I think the answer to it is "No, Sir".

Mr. Blaker

Now that the Royal Air Force has left Gan, what arrangements are being made as to the future of that base, and is it intended to deny its use to the Soviet Union? Is the Minister aware that although this question was asked during the defence debate, it was not answered by the Minister of State?

Mr. John

The hon. Gentleman knows that negotiations took place with the Government of the Maldives on the transfer of certain assets in Gan to promote tourism in that country. The other part of the supplementary question is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs—when such a gentleman exists.

Mr. James Johnson

Will the Minister tell the House whether a final decision has yet been made about orders for the Buccaneer, in view of the immense importance of that aircraft, particularly in view of unemployment among Hawker Siddeley workers?

Mr. John

I do not think that supplementary question arises out of the original Question, which deals with the front-line capability of the Royal Air Force. However, I must tell my hon. Friend that when these decisions are taken every consideration is given to industrial policy.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Will the Minister assure the House that this country has sufficient detection and surveillance aircraft to guarantee its security against the growing menace of Soviet submarines?

Mr. John

As I made clear in an earlier reply, the answer is "Yes".