Sir Mike Penning questions the Government about instructions issued to the crews of HMS Enterprise and HMS Mersey on picking up migrants crossing the channel.
As the Minister responsible for deploying the Royal Navy off the Libyan coast during Operation Sophia, I am surprised that the crews of HMS Enterprise and HMS Mersey were not able to pick up these people. They may not have been drowning, but the crews have great expertise in dealing with such situations from previous operations. Were they instructed not to intercept unless there was a crisis? What operational orders were given to the Royal Navy?
While Royal Navy vessels were in the channel, it is important to state that Border Force’s coastal patrol vessels and our cutters were also deployed. Although I cannot comment on the operational instructions given to Royal Navy vessels, we should be grateful that there was no loss of life or limb and that they were not needed to rescue people. Several coastal patrol vessels were in the vicinity while the Royal Navy vessels were there, and several are there now.