The strategic defence and security review was clear that we plan to deliver the carrier strike capability from around 2020. We are now working to provide the level of detail needed to decide exactly how that intention should be turned into reality. As the planning work is expected to take some months, we are not yet in a position to provide further details.
On behalf of my constituents and the greater Merseyside area, I congratulate the Minister and his Department on the decision to continue the building of two Queen Elizabeth class carriers. Will he acknowledge with me the benefits for Wirral of the manufacturing continuing at Cammell Laird?
The decision has not been without its controversy, but I am delighted to pay tribute to the work force at all the yards conducting the work on the carriers, including in my hon. Friend’s constituency. I have seen that work at first hand in government, and it is a remarkable tribute to them. Whatever the controversy of the past, I am sure the work force will continue to give the project their very best, as they have up to now.
Given that it will be significantly cheaper to build the “cats and traps” into the two aircraft carriers during construction, will the Minister confirm that when working up its plans, the MOD intends to work from the assumption that that is how it will be done?
The hon. Gentleman is a doughty advocate for his constituents and for this particular project. All that I can tell him at this stage is that work has begun to consider the optimum means of delivering that capability, as a result of our decision to change to the much more capable carrier variant of aircraft. That includes considering the type of system, the cost, the procurement route, the delivery date and whether both ships should be converted. We are at a very early stage, and all I can say to him is that he should carry on pressing.