HC Deb 08 November 1977 vol 938 cc457-8
1. Mr. Edwin Wainwright

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the results of the recent Purple Oyster exercise in the North Sea.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. A. E. P. Duffy)

Exercise Purple Oyster 77 was the latest in a series of exercises to test arrangements for the protection of offshore oil and gas installations. Many procedures for dealing with a terrorist incident were practised, and I am satisfied with the progress made in training personnel who would be involved in a real incident.

Mr. Wainwright

My hon. Friend must be aware that there are strong doubts throughout the country as to whether the safeguards about which he talks are satisfactory. Could he say more about the recent exercise to test means to safeguard the rigs, to show the country that we are controlling them and making certain that no damage can be done to them?

Mr. Duffy

Perhaps I may briefly explain what happened and then offer an assessment of the result. It was assumed that terrorists had captured an installation in the Indefatigable Field some 50 miles off the Norfolk coast. Surveillance flights were made and reaction forces were deployed to the area. Hon. Members will not expect me to give the detailed results of the exercise, but it was possible to test arrangements for dealing with this type of situation, and all those involved gained useful experience and training.

Mr. Wall

Can the Minister say what was the participation of the Royal Marines in the exercise? May I take this opportunity to congratulate his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on saving a Royal Marine Commando?

Mr. Duffy

The hon. Gentleman will know that it is the Royal Marines who provide the military response—the quick reaction force—together with an associated Royal Navy helicopter airlift, backed up as necessary by explosive disposal teams and other units of the Armed Services. This exercise followed the pattern of previous ones. However, as with previous exercises, it was understood that these units could act only at the request of the civil power

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