CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – T45 DESTROYERS – 22 January 2007

[The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr Adam Ingram): ... the new Type 45s ...  will be bigger and have a wider role expected of them in regard to their troop- carrying and air-defence capabilities. This is a massive and significant step forward. We have consistently said that the configuration of any embarked fleet will take into account the allies alongside whom we will be working, so the major initiatives that the carriers are most likely to be engaged in, alongside their fleet protection role, will be multinational. ... I will repeat that this is the largest warship building programme for 20 years, and credit should be paid where it is due. The programme also requires us to look at the existing ships in the fleet, and the older ones that do not meet the high standards now required by the Royal Navy will have to be considered with a view to laying them aside and eventually decommissioning them.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I would have more confidence in that answer if the First Sea Lord, Sir Alan West, had not said repeatedly, both in and out of office, that we needed 30 frigates and destroyers to discharge our existing commitments. Is it the case that ships seven and eight are going to be cancelled? Will the Government accede to the Admiralty's request for tactical Tomahawk missiles on those warships? Is it not the case that the admirals know better than Ministers when deciding whether we need 30 ships for our existing tasks or only 19, as appears to be the Government's intention?

[Mr Ingram: I think that I have said where we are going with ships seven and eight, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept that that is the responsible way forward. We need to look at this across the range of issues to which I have referred. He mentioned the strategic use of Tomahawk missiles on Type 45s. That is not currently planned – it would require a strategic examination of the launching of those particular missiles – but the ships will have the capacity to deliver it, if required.

Across the reach of what we are doing, this programme represents a significant upgrade in capability. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that those who know best are those who advise us. That is why we have responded positively to their requests for the carriers and the Type 45s, and to their advice on the future size and shape of the Royal Navy. All such advice is taken into account, as it is in relation to the Army, the Royal Marines and the Royal Air Force.]