HC Deb 10 January 1989 vol 144 cc530-1W
36. Mr. Quentin Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what lessons have been learned following the deployment of the Armilla patrol.

Mr. Archie Hamilton

The success of the Armilla patrol has reinforced many lessons from the past. These include the importance of setting precise and realistic operational objectives, pursued in accordance with international law and as part of a firm foreign policy. In addition, Armilla has demonstrated the value of close co-operation and concentration of effort with our European and NATO allies in out-of-area operations. Above all, the professionalism of the Royal Navy, the high quality of its equipment, and the quietly effective way it has gone about its task have been shown to be vital to the successful achievement of Armilla's objective of protecting British shipping and contributing to the maintenance of freedom of navigation in the international waters in the Gulf. The Armilla patrol with its afloat support will accordingly remain in the Gulf without change to its mission as long as there is a job for it to do.

However, in the light of the continuing ceasefire between Iran and Iraq, the absence of any recent mining, the achievements of European and American minesweepers in removing mines from international waters, and the successful completion of the 300 mile route check by WEU navies known as Operation Cleansweep, we have decided that there is at present no suitable task for the Calendar MCM group of three Royal Navy mine countermeasures vessels which would justify replacing the present group when it sails home in early March. These vessels will therefore return to high priority tasks in home waters. We shall however keep three MCMVs earmarked for rapid return to the Gulf should circumstances warrant it.