BUSINESS QUESTION – WARSHIP CUTS – 11 January 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Yesterday, the Prime Minister agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Sarah McCarthy-Fry) that the Royal Navy plays a fundamental role in defending the country and that it must have the resources it needs. May we, therefore, have a statement on the proposal to reduce the number of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers to only 19, given that the Government's own Strategic Defence Review posited 32 as necessary and that the former First Sea Lord says that we need at least 30 to carry out the number of commitments that the Royal Navy is responsible for fulfilling at present?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jack Straw): I have already given the House an indication that there will be a full debate on defence in which that issue can be raised. However, we have the biggest warship building programme that this country has seen in decades. We are introducing larger and more capable vessels, which means that we need fewer frigates, destroyers and attack submarines than before, but our commitment to maintaining and, indeed, improving the strength of the Royal Navy remains.]