DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – ATTACK SUBMARINES – 12 January 2009

Dr Julian Lewis:  May I associate those on the Opposition Front Bench with the tribute paid to our service personnel who have died or been wounded since the House last met?

In the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd, West (David Jones), the Secretary of State seemed to accept that Iran could, if it chose, pose a major naval threat to our fuel supplies. Does he accept that in countering such a threat our attack submarine fleet would be crucial? For that reason, will he consider restoring the promise that the Government made in 2004 to build eight Astute submarines?

[The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr John Hutton): We have looked very carefully at all these matters. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are currently envisaging building seven Astute submarines, and that remains the Government's position. I do not dispute the important role of the SSN fleet in securing those trade routes, and I can assure him that, along with other naval assets from this country and our NATO partners, we retain credible naval forces designed to ensure that our energy supply routes, especially from the Middle East, remain open.]