DEFENCE – FRIGATES & DESTROYERS – 4 July 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment he has made of the shape and size of the future surface fleet of the Royal Navy; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey): As we set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, under Future Force 2020 the future surface Navy will have a world-class carrier strike capability, with 19 frigates and destroyers, including the state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyer; an amphibious fleet able to land and sustain a commando group from the sea; 14 mine counter-measures vessels; a global oceanographic survey capability; and a fleet of resupply and refuelling vessels. Work is also under way on the requirements and design of the Type 26 global combat ship, our next generation frigate.

Dr Lewis: I am encouraged by that response. Does the Minister remember when he and I sat on parallel Opposition Benches under the previous Government as the size of the frigate and destroyer fleet went down successively from 35 to 32 to 31 to 25 and then to 19? Will he specifically confirm that that figure of 19 frigates and destroyers will not be reduced to a pathetically inadequate baker's dozen, as posited in some parts of the press?

Nick Harvey: I can certainly confirm that the situation remains unchanged from the SDSR. The future force will comprise 19 destroyers and frigates. It was a matter of great regret that the Government had to make a range of cuts in the SDSR, but that was a result of the general economic climate and, specifically, of the defence black hole that we inherited.