CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

PRIME MINISTER – FUTURE AIRCRAFT CARRIERS – 23 November 2005

Dr Julian Lewis: When he expects the future aircraft carriers to be brought into service with the Royal Navy?

The Prime Minister (Mr Tony Blair): We are committed to delivering this important capability in a time scale that meets the requirements of the Royal Navy. We will set the dates when the carriers will be brought into service when we are ready to commit to manufacture.

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] If, as the Prime Minister now suggests, it is not appropriate to set target delivery or in-service dates until the order is placed, can he tell me why his own Defence Ministers on five occasions between April 2004 and June 2005 told both Houses of Parliament that the target in-service dates would be 2012 and 2015? Why are they no longer prepared to say that?

The Prime Minister: The reason for giving those dates was the way in which the existing carriers get phased out. Those are possible dates, but we cannot give a firm commitment to a date until we are ready to commit to manufacture. That simply cannot be done at the present time. As I say, it is perfectly possible that those dates will be the dates that we choose in the end, but at this time we cannot give a firm date until the commitment to manufacture is in place.