HL Deb 19 March 1985 vol 461 c538WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

On what grounds was it decided that the new research vessel, "Charles Darwin" (which is designed to conduct research in the world's oceans into geology, geophysics, oceanography, hydrology, biology and meterology) should not be ice-strengthened, which effectively puts large areas of the North Atlantic permanently out of reach for her; who made this decision; and what steps are now proposed to rectify this mistake.

The Earl of Swinton

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which owns the RRS "Charles Darwin", was responsible for ensuring that the vessel was designed and constructed to meet the council's perceived marine scientific requirements. I understand that, in deciding the design criteria, the council took the view that the additional cost of ice-strengthening the vessel could not be justified: the capital cost and the additional running costs would have had to be accommodated within its grant-in-aid: three of its six ocean-going research ships are already ice-strengthened. I further understand the council now considers that decision to have been the correct one and has no intention of altering the RRS "Charles Darwin" so as to incorporate ice-strengthening.

It is the practice of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to pay the NERC its grant-in-aid without direction as to how it should be spent.