By Joseph Willits
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Phillip Hammond, the Defence Secretary has said in the Commons yesterday that "all submariner roles will be open to women" in response to questions from Tory MPs Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) and Harriet Baldwin (West Worcestershire). Hammond was asked by the MPs what the role of women would be on submarines, including on Vanguard and Astute class, after his 8th December announcement earlier this month that the Royal Navy submarine service would begin recruiting women.
Hammond said that as a result of this wider recruitment, there would be an increased talent pool for the Royal Navy, and that both males and females will endure the same training and be assessed using the same criteria. The Defence Secretary said he was "confident that there will be sufficient interest from female personnel to serve on board Royal Navy submarines."
Dinenage asked "when it is most likely that women will first be put into training and service on submarines?" Hammond replied:
"Female officers will serve on Vanguard class submarines from late 2013, followed by ratings in 2015, and that women will be able to serve on Astute class submarines as both officers and ratings from about 2016."
After being asked by Harriet Baldwin about the costs "to the public purse from adapting submarines to accommodate both sexes", Hammond announced that the financial implication would total £3million. This would not only "provide appropriate accommodation" said Hammond, but allow for "emergency air supplies". He continued:
"Should any female submariner be found to be pregnant while on board, she will be able to breathe from a discrete air supply until she can be medically evacuated."
Despite welcoming "the principle entirely, particularly given the great success of women on board all other ships", Nicholas Soames MP asked the Defence Secretary whether it might be "worth while conducting a lengthy trial in simulated conditions before the plan goes ahead".
Hammond was confident that a pilot scheme, as suggested by Soames, would be unnecessary for two reasons:
"First, the only reason why women were not eligible for the submarine service was that until recently the best medical evidence suggested that there could be a risk to foetal health. It is now clear that that risk does not exist. I would also say that the United States navy has made the change already, and has found the arrangements to be perfectly satisfactory."