HL Deb 07 February 1989 vol 503 cc1430-1

2.40 p.m.

Baroness Strange asked Her Majesty's Government:

How many merchant ships the Armilla Patrol had escorted by the time it ceased escorting vessels in November 1988.

The Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Lord Trefgarne)

My Lords, the number of ships accompanied by the Royal Navy up to 1st November 1988 was 1,026.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

Well done!

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his splendid reply. Is he aware that the Royal Navy escorted more than twice as many ships as any other foreign western navy? Is he also aware how grateful the men who sailed in those escorted ships are to the Royal Navy?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her kind words. I believe I am right in saying that the Royal Navy accompanied more ships than all the other western navies put together.

Lord Irving of Dartford

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that we congratulate the Armilla Patrol and also the men on the three minesweepers for the valuable work that they have done over the past eight years? Can he give the House an assurance that the valuable role that they have been engaged in will continue as long as there is no formal peace agreement between Iran and Iraq?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, as I believe the noble Lord will be aware, following the ceasefire towards the end of last year we have stopped the arrangement whereby merchant vessels are accompanied by Royal Navy vessels. The Royal Navy Armilla Patrol is remaining in the region on independent patrol and will therefore be available to resume its accompaniment role should that prove necessary. As regards the minesweepers, it has been decided that those presently in the region need not be replaced at the beginning of March when rotation was due in the normal course of events, but ships will be earmarked to resume that role should it prove necessary.

Lord Kennet

My Lords, will the House forgive me if I pass my congratulations in the form of a question? How often did the Royal Navy open fire during the course of this operation?

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I do not have that information in front of me, but, happily, not very often.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, as it is right that the British flag should be waved at least occasionally, can it be put on record that in escorting the ships the Royal Navy encountered not one incident of antagonism? The Royal Navy did a first class job and provided safety.

Lord Trefgarne

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. It is indeed the case that no ship accompanied by the Royal Navy was attacked during that time.