FOREIGN AFFAIRS – AIRCRAFT CARRIERS & HARRIERS – 24 March 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: When the Government decided to withdraw the last of our carriers and the Harrier force with it, they did so at the last minute and for financial reasons. Now that both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have confirmed what I sought to establish previously – that these operations will receive extra funding from the Treasury reserve – will the Foreign Secretary have urgent discussions with the Secretary of State for Defence on reactivating HMS Ark Royal and some of the Harriers, because, I assure him, people who know about these matters know how versatile and valuable such a capacity would be?

[The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): No. I have urgent discussions every hour or so with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, but it is important to implement the strategic defence and security review and to bear in mind that fundamental to our national security is the restoration of our national finances. Yes, we have had to do some things that in an ideal world we would not have done, and the Defence budget has had to be controlled, but we have been able to do, and continue to do, what is necessary in Libya without the equipment to which my hon. Friend refers. Our operations are conducted by Typhoon aircraft and, for ground attacks, by Tornado aircraft. These are flying from land bases in the Mediterranean and are able to conduct the operations very easily without, in this case, the need for an aircraft carrier.]