§ 16. Mr. Hooley
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what contracts have been secured by the Hydrographer to the Royal Navy for offshore surveys in the Straits of Hormuz area, or other parts of the coastline of the Arabian Peninsula.
§ Mr. Hooley
Does the Minister agree that that is probably the one uesful service that the Royal Navy could perform in that area? Will he give an assurance that public expenditure cuts will not diminish the capability of the Hydrographer to carry out his important work both around these islands and elsewhere.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton
While we are considering the Straits of Hormuz—a sensitive part of the world—will my hon. Friend tell us whether we have 1143 sufficient submarines to monitor the Soviet presence in that area? If we do not, will my hon. Friend allocate more funds for building further submarines and anti-submarine craft?
§ Mr. Speed
The prime object of our submarine force is not to monitor Soviet surface vessels in the Indian Ocean. As my hon. Friend knows, we are ordering more submarines. We are part of an alliance, and as my hon. Friend will know, there are significant United States naval forces in that area. We are playing our part in the Mediterranean so that the United States naval forces can use that area.
§ Mr. Speed
I should have liked notice of the first question. The number of surveys undertaken is never enough. However, major efforts are being made. With regard to the second question, I hope that we shall soon be able to give a definitive answer to a subject that occupied the previous Labour Government, as it has us. As I indicated in response to a question on 31 January, such inter-departmental considerations are under urgent review. I think that we shall reach a conclusion in the near future. I certainly hope so.
§ Mr. Costain
Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) cannot appreciate the good will that missions of this kind generate in the Persian Gulf? Will he ensure that they continue?