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Aircraft Carriers

Volume 598: debated on Monday 13 July 2015

5. What assessment he has made of the potential contribution to the economy of the building of the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. [R] (900910)

At its peak in 2013-14, the carrier programme created or sustained around 8,000 jobs at shipyards in Glasgow, Portsmouth, Devon, Birkenhead, Newcastle and Rosyth, with a further 3,000 jobs in the supply chain. These are the largest and most powerful warships ever built for the Royal Navy, and they will be flagships for British technology and innovation for the next 50 years.

The House will know of my special interest because my daughter is an officer in the Royal Navy, and I know that she and her colleagues will welcome the 2% commitment. The excellent initial sea training facility in my constituency at HMS Raleigh contributes to the economy of Torpoint and the surrounding area. Is the Minister confident that we are meeting the training requirements necessary to ensure that we have the manpower to run those ships?

I pay tribute to the service of my hon. Friend’s daughter in the Navy. Although three times the size of HMS Invincible, the new carriers will operate with approximately the same number of crew. The Royal Navy is already planning to ensure that it has the suitably trained and qualified people it needs, which includes training at HMS Raleigh in my hon. Friend’s constituency and at Devonport nearby.

As the Secretary of State points out, the Queen Elizabeth class was partly built on the Clyde where the Type 26 frigates are to be built. Can he explain a quote from the Cabinet Office, reported in yesterday’s edition of The Sunday Times, which stated that the Type 26 frigates will now be ordered in small batches

“to bring realism to the programme”?

What does that mean, and what was so unrealistic about the initial order?

We confirmed earlier this year that we are spending £859 million on the design of the Type 26 frigates and on some of the long-lead items for the first three.

I have no doubt that the Type 26s are on the order book, but could the Secretary of State explain the quote from The Sunday Times yesterday about the need

“to bring realism to the programme”?

What was so unrealistic about the initial programme?

Only the Scottish National party could regard £859 million as somehow half-hearted. We will finalise the design of the ships shortly, but we have to make sure that we get good value for taxpayer pounds.