PRIME MINISTER – MILITARY ACTION AGAINST LIBYA – 21 March 2011

Dr Julian Lewis: I have supported humanitarian interventions in the past, and I am minded to do the same in this case, but the reason why we are expected to intervene, rather than others, is that we are stronger than others. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there has been a huge hole in the defence budget. Does he know from his conversations with the Government whether the funding for what could be a very long-term and expensive operation will be added to the core defence budget, or taken from it?

[Edward Miliband: I have been given those reassurances by the Prime Minister. Today, as the House debates this question, I want to concentrate on the important issues before us, including the capability of our armed forces, but I have been given that reassurance by the Government.]

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[Edward Leigh: ... Oratory is not enough; we need air power. How many Tornados do we have? I believe that the strategic defence and security review was a disaster, as big a disaster as the Nott review, which was finally overtaken by the Falklands war. I hope that this operation overtakes the disastrous defence review. France has an aircraft carrier; Spain has an aircraft carrier; Russia has an aircraft carrier; the USA has 11 aircraft carriers; and we have to fly a round trip of 3,000 miles to impose our military force. By the way, all we have done is send three Tornados and two cruise missiles.]

Dr Lewis: I am glad that my hon. Friend raised that point, which I did not have time to raise. Although it is true that in this case we can get by from land bases, when it comes to the fuel costs of flying a single mission, a Harrier from a carrier would have cost £5,750, one from Sicily or southern Italy costs about £23,000 and one from the United Kingdom costs £200,000.

[NOTE: For Julian's speech in this Debate, click here.]