PRIME MINISTER – WARSHIP CUTS – 18 July 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: If he will make a statement on the planned size of the Royal Navy's frigate and destroyer fleet.

The Prime Minister (Mr Gordon Brown): As we said in the White Paper that was published in July 2004, the Navy will operate a fleet of 25 destroyers and frigates. Investment in the Navy has increased from £780 million for capital equipment to £1.3 billion this year, with new investment of £6 billion planned in the next three years.

Dr Lewis: In 2004, the then First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Alan West, now a Minister in the Prime Minister's Administration, criticised the Government for abandoning their promise in the strategic defence review to keep 32 frigates and destroyers and reducing the total to only 25. He described that as piling risk on risk. Will the Prime Minister now guarantee that there will be no further reductions from the total of 25 frigates and destroyers?

The Prime Minister: Since those announcements, we have announced the biggest programme of investment in our Navy for future years. The hon. Gentleman knows that £6 billion of investment in the next three years is a major commitment to our Navy. We look forward to making an announcement soon on the future of aircraft carriers. I believe that we are fulfilling our commitment to create a modern Navy for the future.

I just repeat the Shadow Chancellor's comments:

“there are lots of Conservatives who ... say we've ... got to put more money into ... our armed forces ... part of the test of whether we're ready for government is whether we can resist those additional draws on public expenditure”.

The hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr Lewis) had better talk to the shadow Chancellor first.

[To view this exchange, click here, then move the sliding control to the 20:35 point.]