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Aircraft Carrier Programme

Volume 559: debated on Monday 25 February 2013

While I am on my feet and with your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I wish to correct the impression that I may have given in answer to a previous question. The thousands of jobs in Scotland supporting the deterrent are, of course, in Faslane. The other thousands of jobs in Scotland supporting the construction of the QEII class of aircraft carrier—the subject of these questions—are at Rosyth.

There are now more than 30,000 tonnes of ship in the dock at Rosyth. The forward and aft island structures, containing the ship’s bridges, funnels and radar masts, will be fitted in the coming months, followed by the final hull and flight deck sections. The ship will be largely structurally complete by the end of this year and she will be floated off next year. Construction of HMS Prince of Wales is also well under way, with all the lower block units in build.

The Select Committee on Defence says that the coalition’s double U-turn on aircraft carriers has cost taxpayers £100 million-plus, and we face years without carrier capability. With Hull considering a bid for the decommissioned HMS Illustrious, is the Minister aware that even Hull might soon have one more aircraft carrier than the Royal Navy?

As the hon. Lady has heard already today, the National Audit Office criticised the previous Administration for introducing a delay to the aircraft carrier that cost the taxpayer £1.6 billion, so the Government will not take lessons on how to run a major procurement programme.

Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s plans on whether a second aircraft carrier will be deployed will be based on the unit cost of the joint strike fighter, which is still unknown due to budgetary uncertainty in America?

As the hon. Gentleman should know, decisions on the deployment of the second aircraft carrier will be made in the 2015 strategic defence review.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s commitment to this programme. Will he confirm that the aircraft carriers will be the largest in British history, and can I urge him not to let anyone put him off building them?

My hon. Friend is a redoubtable champion for all matters to do with the armed forces. He is aware that the 65,000 tonne aircraft carriers that will form the Queen Elizabeth class will be not only the largest aircraft carriers ever built in this country, but the largest naval ships ever built in this country.