CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – TYPE 45 DESTROYERS – 2 February 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: I also had the great privilege of attending the launch [of HMS Daring] yesterday and am grateful to BAE Systems for making that possible. I entirely endorse everything that the Minister said about the great efforts of the work force and design team, and I am sure that none of us will ever forget yesterday's experience. Bearing in mind the fact that we are now operating with a fleet with considerably fewer frigates and destroyers than the strategic defence review predicted would be necessary in 1998, even though our commitments have increased, is the Minister in a position to let the House know what the final total of Type 45 destroyers to be constructed will be?

[The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Adam Ingram): I am sure that the Hon. Gentleman had a good day in Glasgow yesterday – I just wish that I had been there to see it. He is always welcome to go back to Glasgow and I am sure that he will be well received by the people of that great city.

The original plan was for 12 vessels in the class. After the re-examination of our needs and the budget, the number was recalculated as eight. We have ordered six, but the Secretary of State has said that he would like to see eight. The Hon. Gentleman will know that we will have to consider appropriately the possible benefits in the future to ensure that we can get the best price, but we are not at that stage at the moment because we do not have the sums in the defence budget. We need to address the priorities in all the other areas.

I remind the Hon. Gentleman that we are spending £6 billion through the equipment plan. That considerable sum must be shared among all our needs for land, air and sea. Scrutiny and examination of the situation will continue. The chiefs themselves – the military planners – will have to consider the capabilities that each service requires and make their case, taking account of the known priorities. There must be balance across the breadth of defence. The equation is not new; it has probably been there since time immemorial and will continue for decades, if not centuries, to come.]