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Aircraft Carriers

Volume 400: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) whether the proposed pooling of Royal Navy and French aircraft carriers for future European Union military operations will ensure that at least one will always be immediately available to the EU (a) in addition and (b) as an alternative to being available for UK and NATO tasks; [98230]

(2) whether Royal Navy aircraft carriers required for (a) UK and (b) NATO tasks when already deployed on EU tasks would be made available for UK and NATO duties. [98231]

At the Le Touquet summit, the United Kingdom and France announced that we would "develop the interoperability of [our] aircraft carrier groups, pursuing all areas of co-operation, in particular harmonising activity cycles and training". The aim will be to maximise carrier availability over the activity cycle. Aircraft carriers available on this basis might participate in national, coalition, NATO or EU-led operations, but will remain national assets. Decisions on the deployment of national assets for operations will continue to be for the nation concerned.The Government make decisions on the deployment (and redeployment) of UK forces on operations on a case-by-case basis. These judgments are based on factors such as operational need, what forces we and others have to offer and any international treaty obligations that may be relevant, with NATO remaining as the foundation of our collective defence.