HL Deb 24 May 1984 vol 452 cc329-31

11.10 a.m.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a new HMS "Ajax" is being planned for the Royal Navy after the present HMS "Ajax" is de-commissioned.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, we take into account all suggestions for the naming of new Royal Navy vessels. The name HMS "Ajax" will be considered, together with other proposals, for suitable future ships.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer. Will he send a recommendation to the Admiralty that they do not allow to disappear a name which has been associated with the Navy for over 200 years, and which has been involved in battles such as Trafalgar, Jutland, and the River Plate?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that the committee which first considers these matters is very well aware of the considerations which my noble friend advances, but I have to say that there are, of course, a large number of famous names of former ships available for consideration and it is not always possible to accommodate all of them.

Lord Ironside

My Lords, following on my noble friend's supplementary question, can my noble friend the Minister say whether these names from the Leander class frigate vessels, which now number 22, will be perpetuated in the Royal Navy as they have served the Royal Navy very well for centuries? Can my noble friend give the House some assurance that the tradition of using these names will not be scuttled without trace?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend to the extent that the traditional names will always be very much in the forefront of consideration when we select new names for new ships. However, I cannot assure my noble friend, I am afraid, that all the names he has in mind will necessarily be continued for ever.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, can the Minister say how long it is expected that the consideration he said is being given to these matters is likely to take?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, the consideration that I have referred to is a continuous process. The committee which considers these matters is a standing committee. That committee brings forward its recommendations to the Admiralty Board, and in the case of large ships Her Majesty the Queen has subsequently to be consulted.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I am sure that my noble friend is aware, is he not, that last time these names were repeated there was about a 20-year gap after the class came to an end? One would hope that something like that would happen in the future. Is my noble friend aware that I was the first captain of the present "Ajax" which I took from the builders in December 1963? Is he further aware that after that I had the privilege of visiting the town of Ajax in Ontario, which was called after the cruiser "Ajax", an added point for continuing this particular name? Is he also further aware that the mayor of Ajax attended the commissioning ceremony, together with all the then living captains of the very illustrious cruiser "Ajax"? I hope that all these points together will ensure the continuation of this name in due course. The Ships' Names and Badges Committee, I am sure my noble friend is aware, has a very difficult task but let us hope that before the end of the century some of these names will be coming back again.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that all these considerations will most certainly be taken into account and, above all of course, my noble friend's own association.

Lord Carver

My Lords, can the noble Lord assure the House that decisions on this matter will be taken as a matter of management on a single service basis and not as a matter of policy by central staff?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I have a feeling that there is a trap in that supplementary question somewhere. However, I also imagine that the Royal Navy will want to hold on to the present arrangements in these matters for a long time.