§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he proposes to allow female personnel to serve in submarines. 
§ Mr. Ingram
We are committed to equality of opportunity in the armed forces, and all posts are open to women unless there are specific reasons to the contrary. Women are not presently permitted to serve in submarines because of medical concerns for the safety of a foetus and hence of the mother. These concerns arise from the contaminants which build up in the atmosphere of our submarines, all of which are nuclear powered and may remain submerged for up to 90 days for operational reasons. These contaminants include carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and about 30 other substances potentially harmful to a foetus. Medical studies have shown that these contaminants may occur at levels which, while they are not harmful to adults, exceed those considered safe for the foetus of a pregnant woman. There is no reliable test for detecting pregnancy in its very early stages.
The medical advice on this issue has recently been subjected to independent review by the Defence Scientific Advisory Council and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; both have supported the key conclusions of the earlier research work. Accordingly, I have agreed that women should continue to be excluded from service in submarines for the time being. However, the medical research and advice will be kept under active review, together with other relevant factors such as the experience of other Navies.838W