§ Mr. Proctor
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement concerning action taken by the armed forces as a result of his announcement on 7 April of a maritime exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands.
§ Mr. Blaker
The maritime exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands came into operation at 0400 GMT on 12 April. Instructions were issued to our forces and measures were taken to enforce the zone. It is not the practice to give details of operational deployments and activity.
§ Mr. Wigley
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many aircraft will be available for the protection of the naval force on its way to the Falkland Islands; and how this compares with the number of aircraft for combat purposes in the Argentine Air Force.
§ Mr. Blaker
The task force, with the carriers HMS "Hermes" and "Invincible", possesses an effective and versatile anti-aircraft capability. Both carriers have enhanced complements of Sea Harrier aircraft and arrangements are in hand to reinforce the Harrier force in the South Atlantic. In addition, the warships in the force carry a wide range of anti-aircraft missiles, including Sea Dart.
Comparison with numbers of aircraft in the Argentinian Air Force is misleading. The Argentinians have a number of land-based aircraft with a limited radius of action over the sea. These include the Skyhawk and the Mirage. Organic air cover is limited to one carrier.
§ Mr. Marlow
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether, before the recent invasion of the Falkland 56W Islands, officers commanding Her Majesty's ships had written engagement orders with regard to potential aggression by the Argentine Navy; and, if so, from when they dated and what they contained.