HC Deb 19 February 1991 vol 186 cc135-6
5. Mr. Dickens

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the training of United Kingdom armed forces and the servicing of United Kingdom military equipment.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

Members of the armed forces undertake regular training to prepare them as fully and as realistically as possible for the tasks that they may have to undertake in hostilities and to assist them in carrying out peacetime duties. Servicing of military equipment is aimed at maximising operational availability while ensuring that quality is achieved at a cost-effective price.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Gulf war has vividly demonstrated to everyone that today's warfare is highly technical and highly sophisticated? Must not we have the right calibre of personnel in our armed forces and give them the right well-maintained equipment and good training? Is not that what the British armed forces have always done and why they have always been considered to be the best in the world?

Mr. Hamilton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I follow him in paying tribute to our volunteer forces who are superbly trained and highly motivated and who have some of the best equipment in the world.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister acknowledge the contribution made by the Rosyth naval base and the adjoining dockyard to the training of personnel and to the servicing of equipment? Does he accept that it would be a cruel acknowledgement of that activity if the naval base were peremptorily closed? That would have a severe impact on the economic fabric of Fife.

Mr. Hamilton

I pay tribute to Rosyth naval base and the dockyard for keeping much of the Navy well equipped and enabling it to perform an excellent job. I am unable to comment on "Options for Change", which is reviewing all our support facilities. I cannot help the hon. Gentleman any further on that.

Mr. Sayeed

Does my hon. Friend agree that low flying has played a very important part in the courageous missions that the Royal Air Force has flown? Does not that give the lie to the Opposition's considerable irritation when they said that low flying was no longer necessary?

Mr. Hamilton

Yes, absolutely. One lesson that we have learnt is that low flying is something at which it takes a long time to become proficient. It is not something that can be worked up quickly in a short period before hostilities. I am afraid that, for the foreseeable future, we must continue with low flying, the value of which has been very much proven during this conflict.

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