DEFENCE (FRONT BENCH) – WARSHIP CUTS – 3 November 2003

Dr Julian Lewis: Is it not a fact that the size of the new aircraft carriers is going to be reduced by between a third and a half; that the number of Type 45 destroyers is going to be reduced on the planned programme; that the number of Astute submarines will be reduced; and that in future the number of Royal Fleet Auxiliary replacement vessels that are supposed to support the carriers will also be reduced? Is it not a fact that the Secretary of State [Geoff Hoon] told the Royal United Services Institute in June that the number of units and platforms that the Armed Forces had was no longer significant? That sort of spin might be acceptable in political campaigning, but it is surely unacceptable in military campaigning where our Servicemen's lives are on the line.

[The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Adam Ingram): Nice rhetoric, but rather removed from the truth. What my right hon. Friend said in his speech earlier this year was absolutely accurate. It is all about capability and effect. That is where we seek to deliver, and we define those concepts on the basis of the best military advice. Ministers do not deliver it in the way implied by the hon. Gentleman: we have to examine the size of the programme, look where the capability lies and then match the two. No Government operate any differently from that – and previous Conservative Governments, of course, operated in exactly the same way. We have to define capability in the light of the new emerging threats. We debated all that only a few days ago and the sort of questions that the hon. Gentleman has just asked were all dealt with then.]