CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – WARSHIP CUTS – 16 July 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: I welcome the Minister to his new responsibilities. I must also say a word of appreciation about his predecessor, the right hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Adam Ingram), who discharged his responsibilities for a long time with great assiduity and reliability.

The Minister's answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) did not begin to address the problem of the number of frigates and destroyers. The Type 45 destroyers were always intended to have the extra capabilities that he described. If we needed eight destroyers in 2004, as the supplement to the White Paper stated, then we need eight now, let alone the 12 that were originally planned. The 2004 White Paper stated that 25 frigates and destroyers are required. Will he guarantee that that figure will not be further reduced?

Mr Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point.

[The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Bob Ainsworth): I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments about my predecessor, who did this job for six years with, as the hon. Gentleman has said, great distinction. It is difficult to follow my predecessor, given the way in which he did the job.

The White Paper laid out the need for eight destroyers. A decision has not been taken yet, because we are still negotiating the detail of the provision for ships four, five and six. It would be wholly wrong to sign off further ships while those negotiations continue. The hon. Gentleman knows that, and I think that he understands the point.]