HC Deb 20 March 1979 vol 964 cc1291-2
9. Mr. Trotter

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied that after the withdrawal of HMS"Ark Royal ", the Royal Navy remains able to deal with the potential threat posed by the very large new Soviet warships such as the"Kiev"and"Minsk"which are armed with aircraft and long-range missiles.

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

Yes, Sir. I am satisfied that, with the support of our NATO allies, we can meet the potential threat.

Mr. Trotter

Does the Minister agree that these new Soviet aircraft carriers, which are twice as large as any ship in the Royal Navy, present a formidable threat to our sea lines of communication? Can he tell the House whether the"Kiev"and the"Minsk"operate in areas of strategic importance to our shipping?

Mr. Duffy

The"Kiev"is at present located north of the Shetlands.

Mr. Rost

What is it doing there?

Mr. Duffy

The"Minsk"is off the coast of West Africa. With the introduction into service of these ships the Soviet Navy will undoubtedly continue to improve its anti-submarine and anti-surface shipping capability. However, the threat that they pose can be countered by a concerted response from land-based aircraft, together with Royal Navy missile-armed warships and SSNs and, in due course, the Sea Harrier. The Royal Navy, however, will not have to deal in isolation with a potential Soviet threat. It will be able to rely on the support of NATO.

Mr. Cronin

Does my hon. Friend agree that HMS "Ark Royal"represented too many eggs in one basket and that the much smaller Soviet ships such as"Kiev"and"Minsk"are amply counter-balanced by the anti-submarine cruisers?

Mr. Duffy

I am glad to be able to inform my hon. Friend that HMS"Invincible"will be engaged in sea trials this spring and that we shall embark the Sea Harrier for further trials next year.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

What assessment has the Minister made of why the Russians are building these large aircraft carriers?

Mr. Duffy

In order to obtain a response to a question on a different policy area the hon. and gallant Gentleman must table a different question.