HC Deb 04 November 1986 vol 103 cc792-3
7. Mr. Dixon

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement concerning the replacement of the Royal Navy's amphibious ships.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Good progress is being made in our examination of the way ahead for our amphibious capacity and my right hon. Friend will make an announcement before the end of the year.

Mr. Dixon

Will the Minister ensure that there is no further slippage in the placement of these orders? Will he also ensure that none of these are sacrificed to pay for the Trident programme?

Mr. Hamilton

At present we are not talking about orders, but are considering the whole question of replacing our present capacity.

Mr. Soames

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to the foothills of immortality. Does he agree that it is self-evidently true that we can no longer retain a 50-ship fleet? What steps are his Department taking to rethink the tasks and deployment of a future greatly reduced Royal Navy?

Mr. Hamilton

We do not anticipate that the Royal Navy will be reduced to the extent to which my hon. Friend refers. I have every confidence that we shall be able to maintain a 50-ship fleet.

Mr. O'Neill

I welcome the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement to his new responsibility. Can he be more specific as to what his colleague will be telling us by the end of the year? Will it be just another piece of delaying tactics about ordering? Will we enter the year 1987–88 before we hear anything positive about amphibious craft orders, or will there be further delaying tactics while we have to pay the price of Trident?

Mr. Hamilton

I thank he hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I cannot anticipate the statement, but when it comes it will be quite definitive about what we intend to do. It will not be a delaying tactic.