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Invincible Class Carriers

Volume 550: debated on Monday 10 September 2012

I can today announce our plans to preserve the legacy of the Royal Navy’s Invincible class aircraft carriers.

The three Invincible class aircraft carriers—HMS Invincible (in service July 1980), HMS Ark Royal (in service November 1985) and HMS Illustrious (in service June 1982)—served this country with great distinction having played key roles in conflicts in the Falkland Islands, Iraq and Bosnia. The last of these, HMS Illustrious, is due to retire from the Royal Navy in 2014. After that date and in recognition of the service given by these ships in protecting the UK over the last 30 years, it is our preference to see HMS Illustrious preserved intact as a lasting tribute to the service personnel who served on all three of the carriers.

In early 2014 we intend to hold an industry day to launch a competition for the innovative reuse of the ship to which interested parties will be encouraged to attend. We will invite a range of organisations, including private sector companies, charities and trusts to put forward viable proposals to ensure that HMS Illustrious remains intact and available for future private use while still offering taxpayers value for money.

HMS Ark Royal was withdrawn from service last year, following the 2010 strategic defence and security review. Retiring the ship five years earlier than planned was a difficult decision but it was the right one that, combined with her sale, has saved over £100 million. That has helped the Ministry of Defence to achieve a sustainable and balanced budget for the first time in decades.

Following a competition, we have awarded a contract to sell HMS Ark Royal to the ship recycling company Leyal for around £3 million. The recycling will be carried out at the company’s site in Turkey, the same location at which HMS Invincible was recycled.

Although a number of proposals to find an alternative use for the ship were tendered, it was decided, after extensive evaluation, that the recycling of HMS Ark Royal was the most viable option and offered the best value for money for the taxpayer. Bids received for further use were either not feasible or appropriate, or carried too much risk.

HMS Illustrious is more suitable for preservation for further non-military use and, as such, is expected to attract interest from organisations who would be able to put forward mature and viable proposals, in keeping with the role and history of the Invincible class of ships.