Ministers routinely have discussions with senior military officers on a wide range of issues, including vehicle protection. The advantages in blast protection that can be provided by a V-shaped hull are well understood and Mastiff, Ridgback and the new Wolfhound vehicle all incorporate this into their design. The vehicle selected for the new light protected patrol vehicle will also have a V-shaped hull. It would, however, be an oversimplification to suggest that vehicle protection is driven solely by hull design. The type of protection used on any given vehicle is very much driven by the capability the vehicle is designed to meet and the threat it is expected to face.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, but as he will know that has not always been the case. There was originally some resistance from the Army to introducing the V-shaped hull vehicles and if it had not been for the work of people such as Ann Winterton in this Chamber, as I am sure he recognises, they might never have been introduced. Given that, will the Minister assure us that when the troops finally withdraw from Afghanistan, the Government will not dispose of these vehicles in favour of the prehistoric design of the future rapid effect system’s vehicles?
It is a great pleasure to join my hon. Friend in paying tribute to Ann Winterton, whose sterling work on this issue and many others in this House has made a contribution to the happier place that we are in than might otherwise have been the case. Commanders probably now have the range of vehicles they need to cope with the different threats they face in theatre. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the importance of ensuring that once the Afghan war is over we learn the lessons and have the appropriate range of vehicles in place to ensure that we can deal with future threats, too.
Given that the question of deployment depends very much on availability and reliability—not only of our vehicles and equipment but of those of our allies—and given that aircraft carriers are V-shaped vehicles—[Interruption.] They are undoubtedly V-shaped vehicles; there is no doubt about that at all. What views does the Minister have on the fact that the French aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, has broken down yet again and is not available?
Mr Speaker, your characteristic generosity has allowed the hon. Gentleman to proceed with his question. I am not sure that a carrier is a vehicle, but never mind—we will let that go. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says and, like him, I wish we could buy three of our own aircraft carriers; he challenged me on this on Monday. We cannot do that, I am afraid, and I think we have adequate arrangements in place to sustain carrier strike in the future.