HC Deb 27 July 1982 vol 28 cc905-6
1. Mr. Stephen Ross

asked the Secretary of State for Defence which naval establishments in the Portsmouth area are still scheduled for closure over the next two years.

The Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Mr. Peter Blaker)

On present plans for the reorganisation of naval training establishments HMS "Phoenix" will be closed during 1984, but the training simulators and other practical damage control training facilities will be kept on their present site. As to the rundown of Portsmouth dockyard, I have nothing to add to the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence during the recent debate on 1 July.

Mr. Ross

What are the current proposals for HMS "Vernon" and Lee-on-the-Solent? Will Lee-on-the-Solent be closed or will the base be retained? It is HMS "Vernon" in which I am most interested.

Mr. Blaker

We shall look at the lessons of the Falkland Islands over the coming months and publish a White Paper before the end of the year to see whether any changes are necessary within our broad stategy. At the moment there is no intention to change the proposals relating to HMS "Vernon", and I should be somewhat surprised if there were any radical changes.

Mr. Viggers

I appreciate the interest shown in my constituency, which is unnecessary on this occasion. Does my hon. Friend agree that the Portsmouth-Gosport area proved of unique value as a one-stop shop for the Royal Navy during the Falkland Islands crisis? It is the only place where repairs, munitions, victualling and personnel services are readily available. Will my hon. Friend decide about the future of Portsmouth dockyard as soon as possible and confirm its enhanced role instead of the reductions that were previously intended?

Mr. Blaker

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's efforts on behalf of his constituents and the interest that he takes in the future of naval establishments in the Portsmouth area. I agree with what he said about the work done by every establishment in Portsmouth to get the task force to sea. It is intended that Portsmouth will remain a naval operating and maintenance base. We have said that there will be no redundancies until at least 1 January. We shall do our best to introduce certainty as soon as we can. We cannot do that until we have assessed what is necessary.

Mr. Denzil Davies

The Government's defence policy is in such a mess that the Secretary of State has had to take a full page advertisement in The Times today to show that he still loves the Navy. As the Government have already changed their mind about HMS "Invincible", will they change their mind about the dockyards and stop the closures of Gibraltar and Chatham and the rundown of Portsmouth? Is the Minister aware that there is growing doubt in all sections of the House about the wisdom of the Government's policies?

Mr. Blaker

We covered the future of Chatham and Gibraltar in previous debates, and I have nothing to add. I have just explained to my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) that we shall be assessing the future shape of Portsmouth over the coming months.

Mr. Peter Griffiths

Does my hon. Friend agree that, given Portsmouth's increased work load, it should be possible to reach the desired figures for the labour force by voluntary redundancies only?

Mr. Blaker

At present it is impossible to say whether that will be so. We want to keep redundancies to a minimum and have as many voluntary redundancies as possible. I pay tribute also to my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) for the work that he has done on behalf of his constituency.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Hooley to ask question No. 2.

Mr. Hooley

No. 2, Sir.

Hon. Members

Stand up.

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman called his question.

Mr. Latham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not usual for an hon. Member to stand up when he addresses the Chair?

Mr. Speaker

Yes, it is.

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