HC Deb 12 February 1980 vol 978 cc1244-5
3. Mr. Farr

asked the Secreatry of State for Defence if he is satisfied with present recruiting levels for the Royal Navy.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Keith Speed)

Not yet. Recruitment into the Royal Navy over the last year continues to show an encouraging increase over that which was achieved in the previous 12 months. However, there is still a shortage in some categories and we have a number of measures in hand that are aimed at improving the position.

Mr. Farr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. However, will he tell the House whether there is sufficient skilled and technical personnel not to prejudice the procurement of the Chevaline programme in relation to our Polaris submarines?

Mr. Speed

As far as I am aware that is so. However, one shortage is in the artificer ratings, although I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that, this year, there has been a larger number of entrants into artificer categories than in any year since 1964.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

If the recruiting level of the Royal Navy is increased will there be enough ships for it to sail in?—What proposals does the Minister have to increase ship building?

Mr. Speed

There are such proposals and the details will be contained in the Defence White Paper that is to be published in the near future.

Mr. Duffy

Will the Minister say a word about the campaign that was begun last autumn to encourage technicians to enter the submarine branch of the Royal Navy? Will he also say a word about nuclear watchkeepers?

Mr. Speed

The matter has been going well. I am not complacent about nuclear watchkeeprs in the submarine branch but the position is better than it was, not least because of financial incentives. A particular problem in the submarine service is that concerning junior seamen grade officers. Nevertheless, that is also improving and we are keeping a close eye on the position.

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