HC Deb 14 December 1982 vol 34 cc128-39 3.44 pm
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Nott)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement.

The Government are publishing today a White Paper on the Falklands campaign. It is now available in the Vote Office.

Part I of the White Paper consists of a brief description of the operation to repossess the Falkland Islands; part II analyses the principal lessons to be learnt from the campaign itself; and part III describes the steps which we are taking to make good losses of equipment, to provide for the future defence of the Falkland Islands, and finally the additional measures now proposed to increase the mobility and flexibility of our Armed Forces for future operations in the NATO area and elsewhere.

First, we intend further to improve the airborne and other capabilities of 5 Infantry Brigade for out-of-area operations. It already has two parachute battalions, an infantry battalion and engineer support. To these we have just added an armoured recce regiment and in the course of next year we will add an artillery regiment, an Army Air Corps squadron and certain logistic units.

RAF Hercules aircraft are already earmarked for deployment of the brigade and the fitting of station-keeping equipment to a number of Hercules will give the brigade a parachute assault capability by 1985. Those enhancements should represent a significant improvement to our capability for airborne operations out-of-area. Taken together with the amphibious capability of the 3rd Commando Brigade Royal Marines, they will give us an improved capability to respond to the unforeseen in a flexible and rapid way.

For out-of-area operations we also need an improved air-to-air refuelling, which was of such vital importance in the Falklands campaign.

Subject to final scrutiny of tenders and to satisfactory contractual negotiations, our intention is to add to our tanker fleet by buying from British Airways six Tristar aircraft for conversion into tankers. We plan to convert four of those Tristar aircraft so that they can also carry freight.

This purchase of a strategic tanker capability will enormously increase our existing tanker capacity. For example, a single Tristar tanker will be able to do the work of eight Victor refuelling aircraft in the South Atlantic. It could also carry up to 120 troops, even while refuelling. It will therefore increase the RAF's troop lift; enable easier support and much more rapid reinforcement of the Falkland Islands; and, most significant of all, it will multiply the effectiveness of all the RAF's combat aircraft, including the Nimrod and the air defence Tornados and Phantoms.

As well as greater strategic mobility to be provided by the Tristars, we also need greater tactical mobility and battlefield logistic support. After the loss of three Chinook medium lift helicopters on the "Atlantic Conveyor"—and the Ministry of Defence is participating with Cunard in the design of her replacement—the one medium lift Chinook was invaluable in the Falklands campaign.

To add to the two Chinook squadrons, we now intend to purchase a further eight Chinooks, of which three will be replacements. Each Chinook can carry up to 80 men and substantial quantities of stores and ammunition. The extra medium lift helicopters will greatly enhance battlefield mobility and logistic support in the NATO area and elsewhere.

As I have already announced, all the Sea King and Lynx helicopters lost are being replaced and an additional six anti-submarine warfare Sea Kings are being purchased for the Royal Navy as well as seven more Sea Harriers, in addition to the replacement of all naval and RAF Harriers lost in the conflict. All these aircraft orders will be subject to satisfactory terms of contract, including price.

In the light of the campaign and the future needs of the Falklands garrison, we must take further steps to improve our air defence capability. Subject to the satisfactory completion of negotiations, we will purchase at least 12 additional Phantom aircraft from the United States; and 24 additional Rapier fire units for the RAF and the Army are to be bought.

The air defence of the Royal Navy must be strengthened by the provision of an organic airborne early warning capability, based on the Searchwater radar, for each of the operational aircraft carriers. We also intend to provide a modern point defence weapon system for all the carriers, the assault ships "Fearless" and "Intrepid", HMS "Bristol", and all the type 42 destroyers—the choice of system is still being studied.

The White Paper describes a number of other new purchases of equipment, weapons and stocks—including a list of the new weapon systems such as Harpoon and laser-guided munitions, purchased during the conflict, which remain as a general addition to our force levels. On the subject of war stocks, we saw again during the campaign the key importance of staying power and of the need to allow for delays in resupply. We plan to increase substantially—by at least £10 million—the number and range of items in the stockpile specifically earmarked for the support of operations outside the NATO area.

I now come to ship numbers and new ship orders. Under the plans set out in Cmnd. 8288, we would have had about 55 frigates and destroyers either running or in refit next year, with no ships in the standby squadron. The total number of ships would have remained at around this level for the following two years but two ships would have gone into the standby squadron by 1 April 1984, and two more into the standby squadron by 1 April 1985. The plan was that by 1989 up to eight ships would have been in the standby squadron out of a total of 50.

With the additional funds now available, and to meet the needs of the garrison, the two standby ships in 1984 and the two further standby ships in 1985 will now remain in the front line fleet for these years.

We are at present covering for the four ships lost in the campaign by running on older hulls but, to sustain our proposals in Cmnd. 8288 for a total force of about 50 ships in the longer term—that is beyond the mid-1980s—new build replacements are needed urgently. We have decided that these replacements should be type 22 anti-submarine frigates and that an improved batch III design, taking account of the Falklands campaign, should be introduced as soon as possible.

Competitive tenders were sought for the first of the replacement ships and for another type 22 frigate already in the programme and not related to the Falklands losses. In the light of the tenders submitted, an order for two new type 22 frigates of an amended batch II design has been placed today with Swan Hunter, together with an order for a further two replacement ships of the new batch III design from Yarrow (Shipbuilders) Ltd.

Initial design work is in hand for a replacement for the logistic landing ship "Sir Galahad". "Sir Tristram" will be brought back to the United Kingdom and we hope that it can be repaired.

I am also able to announce today, although it is unconnected with the Falklands replacements programme, that an order for two further Hunt class mine countermeasures vessels has been placed with Vosper Thornycroft.

Last year, in pursuance of our policy of modernising the fleet, we spent more in real terms on ships and their weapon systems than for the past 19 years, and almost 50 per cent. more again than in 1978–79. The total value of the ship orders placed today is £585 million. When added to other naval orders amounting to £161 million already placed this year, new naval shipbuilding will be maintained at a very high level.

We plan that the fourth and final Falklands replacement ship will be a further batch III type 22 frigate. It will be ordered as early as possible next year by competitive tender when Yarrow (Shipbuilders) Ltd. has completed the redesign work. Cammell Laird Shipbuilders Ltd. and Vosper Thornycroft (UK) Ltd. will be strong contenders for this order.

The success of last year's review of the defence programme in matching resources to our revised forward plans had already won us some flexibility to make adjustments to the defence programme. The Government have now provided extra funds to meet the additional costs of the garrison and the replacement of all equipment lost.

All the measures that I have announced can be met within the announced defence budget for 1983–84 and the planning totals for later years.

In many respects, the Falklands conflict was unique. We must be cautious, therefore, in deciding which lessons of the campaign are relevant to the United Kingdom's four main roles within NATO. These roles remain our priority, and the modernisation of our forces devoted to them must still have the first call on our resources. The measures that we are taking will significantly strengthen our ability to perform our main defence tasks but they will also increase the flexibility, mobility and readiness of all three Services for operations out-of-area as well as within the boundaries of NATO itself.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

The Secretary of State referred to the success of last year's review of the defence programme—a programme that Sir Henry Leach referred to as a major con trick and a catalogue of half-truths". There still seems to be no maritime out-of-area capability in this White Paper. Surely that is the real lesson of the Falklands war.

Will the Secretary of State therefore answer the following questions? First, will he give the real number—not the phoney one—of surface ships that he expects there to be in April 1985? Secondly, how many of those ships will be mothballed—in the standby squadron? Thirdly, does he really believe that the dockyards of Portsmouth, Rosyth and Devonport will be adequate for a proper maritime policy? Finally, when will he come clean with the House and admit that all of his maritime policy is put at risk by Trident?

Mr. Nott

The right hon. Gentleman says that we still have no maritime out-of-area capability. I thought that the Royal Navy did rather well in the Falklands, which is about as out-of-area an operation as one can possibly imagine. I completely fail to understand what he is suggesting.

I said in my statement that in 1985 we would have about 55 escort ships—destroyers and frigates. That is exactly the same number as we proposed in Cmnd. 8288. There will be none in the standby squadron in 1985 because the four that would otherwise have been in the standby squadron will be involved with the garrisoning of the Falkland Islands.

The dockyards at Rosyth and Devonport are fully sufficient to meet the size of the new fleet. We have gone out of mid-life modernisations and dockyard capacity will be sufficient. I have issued a consultative paper today proposing expansion of the naval base at Portsmouth. It will be used for the care, maintenance, weapon updating and other things that are needed for the fleet, as will Devonport and Rosyth.

The right hon. Gentleman criticises the Government and especially me on our policy towards the Royal Navy. In real terms, we are today spending £700 million more on the conventional Navy than the previous Labour Government were spending. Last year, naval shipbuilding—new ships and their weapon systems—was at a record level for the past 19 years. I cannot see how the right hon. Gentleman can criticise our policy when the party to which he belongs is proposing a massive cutback in defence spending.

Mr. Churchill (Stretford)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement, especially on the enhancement that he is making for our air defence at home and for the fleet, and for the strengthening of the Royal Navy. Will he confirm that all the items to which he referred will represent a fundamental enhancement to the overall capability of our Armed Forces here in Europe as well as for the Falklands operation?

Will my right hon. Friend expose the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) when he tries to masquerade as defender of our Armed Forces while representing a party that is committed to chop by one-third outlays on defence?

Mr. Nott

With regard to my hon. Friend's latter point, the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) and especially the Labour Party are proposing to cut our defence expenditure by one third, yet they qualify that proposal by saying that jobs will not be shed. That is typical of the ambivalence in everything that the Labour Party says about defence. It would destroy our defences. That is becoming increasingly clear to the British people.

I can confirm that the majority of the proposals that I am making today will enhance our general defence capability for use in NATO, for use out-of-area and for the garrisoning tasks that we still retain in the Falkland Islands.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

Is the Secretary of State now convinced that our ships will not again be exposed to airborne attack without early warning? Is not one of the principal lessons of the affair that we are at our most vulnerable if an enemy thinks that we have neither the will nor the means to respond to attack? Does he agree that the withdrawal of HMS "Endurance" created that impression, and that the same impression could be created if NATO does not appear to have the means to respond by conventional strength to conventional attack?

Mr. Nott

I hope that what I have announced will strengthen our conventional defences. I remind the hon. Gentleman that HMS "Endurance" was in the Falkland Islands when she was attacked. Apparently, the deterrent value of HMS "Endurance" was inadequate. The ships that we deployed in the Falkland Islands were necessarily placed within range of land-based aircraft from Argentina. Normally, in a NATO context, we would not place our ships in that position and they would have the protection of land-based NATO aircraft. They would also have the airborne early warning of NATO, which in the Falklands they did not possess. That is why we want to add an airborne early warning facility to our three carriers.

Mr. Neville Trotter (Tynemouth)

Will my right hon. Friend accept my congratulations upon the increase in the naval strength that will result from the orders? Will he accept also that Tynemouth will be especially grateful for the fact that they were won by competitive tender, with all that that means for the future? Can he assure us that there will be a strengthening of the Navy's back-up by increasing the number of people employed in the dockyards and the bases and the number of sailors remaining in the Navy?

Mr. Nott

Not entirely. It has been my objective to reduce the support side and to put more of the total resources available to the Royal Navy into the front line. The greater the number of support bases and training bases and other such establishments, the less money there is to put into the front line. The pressure, which has not been entirely welcome to my hon. Friends or to the Royal Navy, which has been exerted during the past two years has created a slimmer and, I believe, a better front line. My hon. Friend is right in saying that we went out for competitive tenders. Swan Hunter put in an extremely competitive and attractive bid and, therefore, it won the order.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many Members on both sides of the House who are friends of the Navy will be glad to see the readjustment of the balance and will only regret that it required the Falklands campaign to bring it about? Will he make it clear whether he intends more than 42 surface ships to be running in 1989 with fewer than eight in the standby squadron? Will he give some assurance to those of us who remain very worried that we shall be building insufficient numbers of hunter-killer submarines, especially because of the Trident building programme at Vickers?

Mr. Nott

I think that the priority is to move ahead as fast as possible with the new conventional submarine. The right hon. Gentleman is correct: while Trident is being built, we shall have a pause in the SSN programme. However, our principal requirement is for a new class of conventional submarine, which will be an extremely valuable addition to our force level.

The number of 42 has been much bandied about. It was an estimate of what might have been the number of ships in the running fleet in 1989 had we placed eight ships in the standby squadron. Cmnd. 8288 made it clear that we were looking to a force level of 50 in the late 1980s, of which we said up to eight might be in the standby squadron. I cannot say what the resources will be beyond the mid-1980s. Therefore, the number of ships in the standby squadron in the late 1980s will be for the decision of my successor. We are adhering to the figure of 55 destroyers and frigates, and they will all be in the running fleet over the next two years.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the only public utterance of Lord Carrington since he left office, which appeared in a letter to The Times of 18 June, which was headed "Mr. Nott and Submarines", in which he denied that he had prevented the Secretary of State from sending submarines to the South Atlantic on the ground that it might be provocative? Lord Carrington cuttingly ended his letter to the effect that Mr. Nott could testify that what he was saying was true. How does the right hon. Gentleman reply to Lord Carrington's rebuke?

Mr. Nott

Lord Carrington did not prevent me from sendingg any submarines to the South Atlantic. His letter was perfectly correct.

Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his announcement of the extra six Sea King helicopters that are to be ordered is extremely welcome and will be taken as a further and proper acknowledgment of the way in which the aeroplane performed in the South Atlantic?

Mr. Nott

The Sea Kings performed extremely well. They were operating for very long hours and they were a great success. I hope that the Sea King replacement programme will come on to follow the present generation of Sea Kings.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

Will the Secretary of State give us some more information than he gave to the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) about submarines? Surely it is not good enough for him now to say that we shall crowd out SSN building because of the Trident programme when we still await a conventional design. In paragraph 314, reference is made to the inter-relationship of the merchant navy and the merchant marine with the naval capacity overall. Can the right hon. Gentleman be more forthcoming about his ideas on that score?

The right hon. Gentleman referred earlier to the issuing of a discussion paper between his Department and trade unions on the future of the dockyards. May the contents of that paper be made available to the House so that we can have a proper discussion about the yards?

Mr. Nott

Yes, I can place the consultative paper in the Library; that can be quite easily done. There are many functions which conventional submarines can perform better than hunter-killer nuclear submarines. The need now is to build up the number of conventional submarines. We are moving forward as fast as we can with the new SSK programme. We shall put as much money into that programme as is necessary to bring it forward. That is the submarine priority and not more SSNs. The relationship between the merchant marine and the Royal Navy was proved during the Falklands campaign. It worked admirably, and I should like to consider every means of developing it further.

Sir David Price (Eastleigh)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement that he intends to order four new type 22 frigates. Will he explain why, after the successful launch of HMS "Gloucester", a type 42, at Woolston, no orders have gone to Vosper Thornycroft, which is one of the two designated warship builders in British Shipbuilders? Are we to take it that the Carrington arrangements no longer hold?

Mr. Nott

Vosper Thornycroft would have been given some orders if it had come in with a competitive bid. We must put these orders out to competitive tender. Swan Hunter came in with a price which was far lower than that which was arrived at by Vosper Thornycroft and Cammell Laird. If Vosper Thornycroft had come in with an attractive price, the order would have gone to it. We have placed two orders with Vosper Thornycroft today for the Hunt class, which is a significant order for Vospers. I hope that it will come in with a more attractive offer when the last replacement ship is put up for tender in the spring. The Ministry of Defence will not spend more money on placing orders with uncompetitive tenderers. It will go to the yard which offers it the best price.

Mr. Tony Benn (Bristol, South-East)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the main lesson of the Falklands conflict is that, after 1,000 casualties and probably £2 billion or £3 billion of expenditure, the future of the Falkland Islands is far from settled? France and Germany have resumed arms supplies to Argentina and the United States has voted against us in the United Nations. Almost everyone except the Prime Minister realises that the exclusive sovereignty of Britain over the Falkland Islands cannot survive much beyond this decade. Will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the Cabinet's discussion about its political failure, which it is trying to obscure behind a military success?

Mr. Nott

The right hon. Gentleman has made his point. I am not aware of any of those matters. The Falkland Islands are British, and so they will remain.

Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the main lesson of the Falkland Islands is not that suggested by the right hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), but the conclusion in his White Paper that what we did there has given credibility to the entire Western defence posture? We shall take arms to assist those who wish to remain living in freedom, even if they are on the other side of the world.

Mr. Nott

I agree entirely with my hon. and learned Friend. Our action to recover the Falkland Islands has been an example to the entire West.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

Does the Secretary of State deny the fact that the total bill for the Falklands war and its aftermath is £2½ billion, or £5 million per family on the Falkland Islands? Does it save the taxpayer a single pound if this colossal waste comes from his budget rather than that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Nott

I do not have in front of me the exact figure for the cost of repossessing the Falkland Islands, but it was about £700 million to £800 million this year. The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the cost of replacing all the equipment that we lost will be substantial. Clearly I would be the first to say that this incident should never have happened. However, it did happen and it was a remarkable achievement by our Armed Forces. It showed that Britain was resolute in the way in which she recovered the Falklands. That has strengthened the deterrence of the West, which should please the hon. Gentleman, because it has made war less likely.

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for the increased flexibility and enhanced maritime commitment that it implies. As to the number of men employed in the Royal Navy, there remains on the record a signal from the First Sea Lord showing that the number of men in the Royal Navy would run down from 70,000 to 62,000, or possibly 60,000, by 1986 and that the diminution would continue at about that level. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the increase in the number of ships requires a larger number of Navy personnel?

Mr. Nott

The White Paper does not give details of the revised manpower requirements of the Royal Navy because that will take some time to work out. A signal has been sent to the fleet today by the Second Sea Lord explaining that we cannot give firmer figures for a few months. The reductions in shore establishments and the undertaking of more training afloat will reduce the numbers necessary to man the front line. The type 23 frigate will have a much smaller complement of men. Therefore, although the 4,000 redundancies that were originally contemplated will now be less than they might otherwise have been, there are likely to be some redundancies in the Royal Navy and the size of the Navy will decline, probably much in line with the figure given in Cmnd 8288.

The only way in which we can stop the decline is by cancelling some naval programmes. We have a choice between equipment and manpower. With the funds available, we believe that the right balance has been struck, but we can keep more people in the Royal Navy only if we cut the programme.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

If we leave aside the earlier differences about the operation of the task force, will the Secretary of State now recognise that Britain has become bogged down in a military, economic and political morass in the Falkland Islands that is damaging rather than helping the national interest?

Mr. Nott

I am sorry, I did not understand who was becoming bogged down—[HON. MEMBERS: "You."] What I announced today will substantially increase our Armed Forces' capability generally for operations in NATO and elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman will welcome that.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

As my right hon. Friend this afternoon and on earlier occasions has paid eloquent tribute to the excellent work of our helicopters, can he tell us now whether he is carrying out a review of the projected helicopter strength in the British Army of the Rhine as in earlier plans there was to be only a comparatively small increase in years to come?

Mr. Nott

Yes. There are some interesting thoughts about that matter. As my hon. Friend knows, we are considering the possibility of using some older Wessex helicopters for the 2nd Division based in York. I would wish to see more helicopters in the reserve elements of the BAOR and in the BAOR itself. The new Chinook squadrons that are now coming into service will enhance enormously the helicopter lift of the BAOR.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Is not the main lesson of the Falkland Islands that the Secretary of State for Defence could not have deployed so quickly or effectively but for the naval assets that he inherited from the Labour Government? His statement this afternoon is a justification not only of the Labour Party's perception of the size and shape of the fleet, but of the main priority areas that he verified this afternoon. It had taken him three and a half years to endorse the type 22 frigates, the MCMVs and the modern point defence for high value assets. Will he say something about the dual use and adaptation of merchant units such as the Arapaho project?

Mr. Nott

I hope that, after many years of delay, we can move ahead with the Arapaho project during the next year or so. I wish to include that project in the programme. The fact that the Government have put up money for the "Atlantic Conveyor" replacement is evidence of our interest in this area. I wish to put more money into the Arapaho project.

The hon. Gentleman inherited naval assets from the Conservative Government, so his argument is non-productive. The Royal Navy will continue to perform a valuable function under all Governments. Last year, before the Falkland Islands incident, we spent more in real terms on naval shipbuilding and weapons systems than had been spent for 19 years. There is nothing of which the hon. Gentleman can accuse this Government.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call four more hon. Members from either side and then to move to the second statement.

Mr. Julian Critchley (Aldershot)

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but he will be aware that it is calculated that, by fiscal year 1985–86, there will be under-funding in defence spending of about 15 to 20 per cent., due in part to Trident, in part to the Falkland Islands and largely to the rising costs of men and equipment. What advice does he have for his successor?

Mr. Nott

I have no idea from where my hon. Friend gets that figure. I am not sure to which under-funding he refers. We have planned for the next decade in accordance with the normal long-term costings of the Ministry of Defence. The programme is fully funded, well known and set out in the annual White Paper. I know of no under-funding.

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

The White Paper and the Secretary of State's statement do not argue conclusively that it is possible to pay for the improvements of our maritime contribution to NATO, the air defence of the United Kingdom, our out-of-area capability and the replacement of Polaris. Will the Secretary of State come to the House in future with more detail than he has provided so far about how the Government propose to carry out two-thirds of what is contained in this document?

Mr. Nott

The hon. Gentleman knows that we tackle all those matters annually in the defence White Paper. We shall again next year give a full description of what we are doing. We are meeting all the main NATO roles. Of course, I would wish to do more in all roles, but with a 3 per cent. real increase a year there is a strain on the economy. We are improving all four roles and our allies believe that we are doing a good job.

Miss Janet Fookes (Plymouth, Drake)

In welcoming the replacement of surface vessels, may I remind my right hon. Friend of the fire hazards revealed during the Falklands campaign about which the Royal Navy had previously warned? Will my right hon. Friend give assurances as to the type of electrical wiring to be used in the new designs, about the use of aluminium in the superstructures and about the use of materials for bedding and clothing?

Mr. Nott

Aluminium and PVC wiring have not been used in the construction of modern ships. My hon. Friend is right to say that they caused problems in older ships during the Falklands campaign. Much work has been carried out on the survivability of ships, and all such lessons shall be incorporated in the new ships that we are ordering.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

The cost of the defence of the Falkland Islands has been estimated at £3 billion over four years. Does the Secretary of State recognise that the best contribution the Government could make to our defence would be to secure a negotiated settlement with Argentina on the future of the islands, thus ending the haemorrhage of resources and the risk of further human losses on the islands?

Mr. Nott

I have always taken the view—I did during the time of the Falklands conflict—that we want a long-term accommodation with Argentina. The Falkland Islands must be secure so that the Falkland Islands may exist in peace with their neighbours.

Mr. Keith Speed (Ashford)

I welcome some of the positive statements that my right hon. Friend has made this afternoon. Can he assure the House that new and existing ships will have their weapons, sensors and communications modernised from time to time, even if mid-life modernisation is no longer foreseen?

Mr. Nott

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that we must be able to update those systems. We already have a substantial modernisation programme for the items that my hon. Friend mentioned, but he is right in saying that, as far as possible, we must be able to replace such items in ships in the running fleet—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why was the hon. Gentleman sacked?"] It is not within my power to sack my hon. Friends. My hon. Friend was a most valuable member of the Ministry of Defence. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance he seeks.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell (Southampton, Itchen)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the specialist warship building yards, such as Vosper Thornycroft in my constituency, maintain expensive design teams that increase their overhead costs, thereby placing them at a distinct disadvantage when competitively tendering for type 22s and other ships with yards such as Swan Hunter which do not have such expensive overheads? Does he want to see the specialist warship building yards break up their design teams?

Mr. Nott

I am unable to get involved in a debate on whether the design teams of Vosper Thornycroft are too large. I am a customer. I put out tenders and receive bids. It is for British shipbuilders, not for me, to decide how they organise themselves so that they offer the lowest possible price.

Sir Frederick Burden (Gillingham)

Is my right hon. Friend still of the view that the SSN submarine is our most important naval weapon, as stated in the 1981 White Paper? Was the delay in refitting and refuelling "Swiftsure" due to the fact that it is a new type of SSN? How different is it from "Churchill", which is being refitted and repaired at Chatham within two and a half years while it is taking more than three and a half years to refit "Swiftsure"?

Mr. Nott

I have already answered that question. It would not be right to take up the time of the House by answering it again.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

Does not today's statement indicate a further cut in the size of the Royal Navy? Is it not true that long before the Falklands campaign, the Government made a commitment to place two major orders for type 22s? With four ships sunk during the Falklands campaign, that makes a total of six. Today the right hon. Gentleman has announced orders for five. What about the other order? Although the Minister and his colleagues often make complimentary remarks about the performance and workers of Cammell Laird, does he realise that words, however complimentary, are no substitute for orders and jobs?

Mr. Nott

I realise that Cammell Laird will be disappointed that it has not secured any of these ship orders. There is one more to come and I hope that Cammell Laird tenders successfully for it. One type 22 frigate was in the programme, and I have today confirmed that order, which I announced previously. I have also mentioned four replacement ships. No other type 22 frigate is in the naval programme at present, nor has there ever been.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that when, on becoming Secretary of State for Defence, he announced the naval cuts he said—I think that I quote him properly—that defence policy was over-extended and unbalanced? In view of the extra costs he has announced today, the other costs of the Falklands operation and the decision to buy the Trident II missile, does he agree that the defence policy is now even more unbalanced and over-extended? All that he has done today is to hand over the problems to his successor, and there will have to be another fundamental review of defence policy. In view of that, is he not relieved that he had the prescience about 15 years ago to tell his wife that he would leave active politics at the end of this year?

Mr. Nott

I do not think that that has much to do with the Falklands White Paper. When I became Secretary of State for Defence, I said that the budget was over-extended. We had far greater plans within the programme than we had resources to meet them. It was therefore necessary to hold the review that I conducted. The right hon. Gentleman would naturally expect me to believe that the programme is now in better order and better balanced than it was. I expect him, as Opposition spokesman, to take the opposite view. Unfortunately, I am unable to agree with anything that he has said.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that you have limited the time for questions on statements, and that some of us have inevitably not been called, but you have called the spokesman for the Liberal Party and the spokesman for the Social Democratic Party even though they fight every by-election and local election as one party and have made it quite clear that they intend to fight the next general election as one party.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did exactly the same in the last Parliament when there was an understanding between the Liberal Party and the Government of the day.

Sir Frederick Burden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend, in replying to my question, made a terminological inexactitude, as will be shown in Hansard tomorrow. He did not make an accurate statement regarding submarines.

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter of opinion; it is not a point of order.