HC Deb 24 October 1989 vol 158 cc652-3
2. Dr. Reid

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a further statement about his Department's plans for the decommissioning of nuclear submarines.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr. Alan Clark)

We are actively considering the available options, and I refer the hon. Member to the evidence given by my Department to the Select Committee which was published in its seventh report.

Dr. Reid

Is it not time that Ministers made a decision? The only policy that the Government seem to have on the decommissioning of nuclear submarines is to leave them sitting round in port to corrode. Given that the Dreadnought has been hanging around for years and that other submarines are due to be decommissioned before the year 2000, is it not about time that Ministers came to the House with a clear, definitive statement of their intentions on the decommissioning of nuclear submarines?

Mr. Clark

It is important not to make a precipitate judgment. To moor and store submarines in this way is a perfectly safe option, and during that time the radiation in the power units degrades. The United States has been storing submarines in this way for more than 20 years.

Mr. Boyes

Is it not time that the Government came to a conclusion on the matter, which I understand has been actively considered for some time? We will have 10 more nuclear submarines within the next few years. Why does not the Minister advise us of some of the important criteria on which he will base this decision? I suggest that monitoring should be carried out and that the Government should ensure that the submarines are recoverable, repairable and tested. The Government have been dilatory; it is about time that they got their finger out and did something about it.

Mr. Clark

It is important to get the solution right. There is no danger of these submarines corroding. Dreadnought will be docked briefly for an overhaul within the next six months to ensure that that does not happen. The radiation from the existing hulls is very slight. In accordance with the requirements suggested by the Select Committee, we have monitored the radiation and we are supplying details to Dunfermline council. This is a perfectly acceptable way of storing the vessels until a solution, which will undoubtedly embrace the factors mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, is arrived at.

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