BUSINESS QUESTION – AIRCRAFT CARRIERS – 15 June 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Leader of the House [Jack Straw] recall from his days of being Foreign Secretary the favourable reception that was given to the Government's Strategic Defence Review for recognising the need for a shift to an expeditionary strategy based on aircraft carriers to deal with terrorist threats as far away from home as possible? If so, can the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement soon on who is in charge of future defence policy, given the report this week that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is insisting on £1 billion being shifted from the defence budget to the homelands security budget, which will almost certainly result in at least one of the aircraft carriers not being built?

[ ... Mr Straw: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is, of course, responsible for defence policy, through the Cabinet and to the House. It is true at all times that there is pressure on defence spending. I will not embarrass the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis) by reminding him of the cuts that were made in defence spending towards the end of the Major Administration. If there is any change in our current position in respect of aircraft carriers, it will be announced to the House. I am not anticipating that there should be.]