HC Deb 16 November 1982 vol 32 cc137-8
8. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether any significant changes will be made in the design and the materials used in the construction of warships as a result of experience in the South Atlantic.

Mr. Pattie

Analysis of the experience gained during the Falklands campaign is not yet wholly complete, but we are considering some detailed changes in warship design.

Mr. Hardy

Will changes be made in the use of materials in warships now under construction or planned? In particular, is the Minister aware that naval design seems to have ignored aspects of technology that have long been obvious in other sectors of metal use? For example, in the technology of deep mining, the disadvantages of aluminium have long been seen. May we have an assurance that the experience in other sectors of technology will be urgently applied to naval construction?

Mr. Pattie

I assure the hon. Gentleman that all these factors are being taken into account.

Mr. Nelson

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is already apparent that the problem of fire in warships in the South Atlantic is not just a question of the aluminium superstructure but the flammable material inside the warship? Will future warships be rather more spartan and less comfortable internally, and are these factors being taken into account in the design and specification of ships already under construction?

Mr. Pattie

I assure my hon. Friend that these are precisely the factors that we are examining.

Mr. Concannon

Will the Minister confirm that the ships sunk off the Falklands are now war graves? Is he aware that some of the next-of-kin will find it difficult to believe that diving is being carried out on those ships when they were led to believe that that would not be possible, which was the reason for not bringing the bodies home?

Mr. Pattie

The right hon. Gentleman has been written to in detail on the matter. Perhaps he will await the arrival of that letter.

Sir Patrick Wall

Is not one of the lessons that of the inadequacy of our ships' surface-to-airdefences, and are plans being made to fit lightweight Sea Wolf to all our warships to combat missiles?

Mr. Pattie

As my hon. Friend will be aware, these questions arising from the Falkland conflict will be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper.