Code of practice for submarines published: Minister announces safety move and other changes. Christopher Bellamy reports

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Indy Politics
A code of practice to prevent submarines becoming entangled with fishing boats was published yesterday, following the loss in November 1990 of the fishing vessel Antares, dragged into the Clyde Estuary by HMS Trenchant with the loss of four crew.

Jeremy Hanley, the armed forces minister, also announced that Royal Ordnance had won an order for nearly pounds 200m worth of ammunition for British forces' use over the next five years. The huge order secures 1,000 jobs. It covers ammunition from the 5.56mm SA- 80 rifle up to the 4.5-inch naval gun. Some of the ammunition can only be produced by Royal Ordnance, but other types are made by firms such as Rheinmetall of Germany or Bofors of Sweden.

He also confirmed that the Women's Royal Naval Service, the Wrens, will be abolished on 1 November and women integrated into the Navy, as reported in the Independent last month.

And the academic training of naval engineer officers will be transferred to Southampton University, with the probable closure of the Navy's own engineering university at Manadon, Plymouth, saving pounds 10m a year.

Mr Hanley announced the publication of the new code and the other changes in the Commons defence debate yesterday.

Under the Code of Practice, submarines will operate submerged in coastal waters as seldom as possible and preferably at weekends when fishing is not taking place. They will operate on the surface wherever possible and will stay at least 1,500 yards from fishing vessels at 'persicope depth' and 4,000 yards away when below that. The 'Subfacts' scheme, where the presence of submarines is broadcast by the Coastguard, is to be extended from the Clyde estuary to the sea areas around Portsmouth, Plymouth and the Minches, to the west of Scotland.

The document includes instructions to submarine commanders on action to be taken in the event of collision with a fishing vessel. It says submarine operations are not secret and that commanders should advertise their presence.

The full integration of the Wrens follows the decision to send women to sea in 1990 and their service in the Gulf war. The only areas where women will not immediately be eligible to serve, on 'practical grounds, rather than grounds of principle', are in submarines, in the Commandos and certain small vessels such as minehunters.

Mr Hanley said it seemed absurd for the Navy to run its own university at a cost of pounds 10m a year for about 30 students. He said Southampton University was selected because it offered the course 'with the best content'.

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