HC Deb 27 April 1982 vol 22 cc716-7
17. Mr. Peter Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he proposes any changes to the defence plans announced in his White Paper.

Mr. Nott

The adjustments to our force structure announced in Cmnd. 8288 are designed to produce a balanced range of capabilities to counter the prime threat to the United Kingdom posed by the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, but versatile enough to respond wherever our interests are threatened. When the Falkland Islands crisis is over we shall naturally consider whether any adjustments are needed within the general strategy.

Mr. Bottomley

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I regard that as a very sensible answer and that I shall therefore not ask for any more details at this time?

Mr. Douglas

Will the Secretary of State reconsider the actions that have been taken and those that are in train in relation to the dockyards, in view of their excellent performance during the Falkland Islands crisis?

Mr: Nott

In view of the present emergency I have said that no further redundancy notices should be issued in the immediate future, but our general strategy for the future of the dockyards must remain unchanged.

Mr. Alexander

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be sensible to postpone closure of the Gibraltar dockyard, a subject which we were not able to probe on an earlier question? Is he aware that there is considerable anxiety on both sides of the House about the proposed closure?

Mr. Nott

I realise that there is anxiety about this matter. We are giving every possible assistance to finding some future for the Gibraltar dockyard, other than its existing defence function. It is a very unhappy event to close any extablishment, but unless we tailor the future support of the Royal Navy to the size of our front-line forces we shall not be able to afford to go on putting more resources into modern weapons systems, new platforms, combat stocks and other requirements. We cannot have an overlarge support structure that we do not require.

Mr. Denzil Davies

Will the Secretary of State clarify the position about redundancies at Chatham dockyard? Last week there was a report from the Ministry of Defence that the redundancies would be postponed, but there is now some confusion over whether that is so. Will the Secretary of State confirm, or otherwise, that all the redundancies in the pipeline for Chatham have at least been postponed?

Mr. Nott

As I have just said, no further redundancy notices will be issued in the immediate future. I believe that further redundancies at Chatham were to be declared on 7 May. Those will not now be declared. No further redundancies will be declared in the immediate future, but our general plan for the future of the dockyards remains unchanged.