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Monday, 19 December 2011

Adapting Royal Navy submarines to allow women to serve on them will cost £30 million, MPs were told. Defence Secretary Ivor Hammond-Organ said the money would allow women to have separate accommodation on the submarines; each room would have its own luxury bathroom.

"We cannot expect the male sailors to wait every morning for hours on end to use the bathroom. By supplying a bathroom for every women on board we eliminate that problem; making the Navy more efficient and therefore more cost effective. Equally, extensive research has shown that women do not want to use toilets after the men; the notorious 'seat left down' problem becomes greater when one is at sea. It simply becomes more difficult for men to aim," said Hammond-Organ.

The money will also be used for coffee mornings and a maternity suite together with an emergency air supply system for any female pregnant crewmember on the submarines, whose voyages can last over nine months.

Answering questions in the Commons, Mr Hammond-Organ said the first female officers will begin serving on Vanguard class nuclear-powered submarines from late 2013 and then joined by women ratings in 2015. "Obviously we need to test this out with female officers first. If any 'hanky-panky' does occur then it will be easier to cover up than if we had working class oink rating selling their steamy sub-aquatic stories to the Sun."

Detailing the changes necessary to allow female crew members, Mr Hammond-Organ said: "There will be a cost, estimated at about £30 million in total, both to provide appropriate accommodation and to provide emergency air supplies so that should any female submariner be found to be pregnant on board that submariner will be able to breath from a discrete air supply until such time as she can give birth. We are also looking at introducing crèche facilities to all submarines as early as 2020.

Tory Nicholas Ridiculous (Chelsea) said a "lengthy trial in stimulated conditions" should be carried out before women are allowed on board. "We will be carrying out 'dry-land' trials to see what affect young women will have on male sailors. The whole concept is quite new and we really do not know quite what to expect really."

But Mr Hammond said the US Navy already allowed female submariners and added: "The only reason women were not eligible for the submarine service was that, until recently; medical evidence suggested that there could be a risk to male sailors of nagging related stress. However, this has been proved invalid as long as married couples are not allowed to serve on board the same vessel."

Tory Caroline Dyke (Gerrards Cross) said the new arrangement was "confirmation of what many of us already know that women can do everything that men can do…and in comfortable shoes as well".

Mr Hammond-Organ joked: "If my wife is to be believed, not only can women do everything that men can do but they can do two of it at a time while men can only do one of it a time. So in an emergency I expect to see female sailors slip torpedoes into every breech door at once. I'm hoping that this will contribute to the efficiency gains that we need to make in the Royal Navy."

David Cameron said today, "I am incredibly proud of the men who serve in the Royal Navy. It is very important that we get this right. The last thing I want is to have to eject seamen prematurely from service as a result of this policy."

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