HC Deb 10 June 1964 vol 696 cc414-5
3. Mr. McMaster

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when tenders are to be submitted for the construction of a new aircraft carrier.

19. Mr. Wingfield Digby

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when it is now intended to lay down the new aircraft carrier; and when it is planned that she will join the fleet.

43. Miss Vickers

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the progress of the new aircraft carrier.

50. Mr. Cronin

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his programme for constructing and equipping the new aircraft carrier.

Mr. Hay

Detailed design work, research and development are in progress. We hope to be in a position to invite tenders for the construction of the new carrier in the spring of 1966. It is too early to forecast the date of the keel-laying, but our aim is to have the new carrier fully operational in 1973.

Mr. Digby

Is my hon. Friend aware that there have been rumours in the Press of some delay? Can he give a categorical assurance that this aircraft carrier will reach the Fleet as planned, on the date planned, which obviously he cannot disclose?

Mr. Hay

I cannot add to my Answer. Our aim is to have the carrier fully operational by 1973, and everything is now going very well to plan.

Mr. McMaster

Is my hon. Friend aware of the rundown in our shipbuilding industry which has been taking place over the last four or five years and of the importance, from the point of view of maintaining continuity of employment in our shipyards, that the keel should be laid as soon as possible?

Mr. Hay

From all accounts I thought that the position of the British shipbuilding industry was improving substantially Certainly we cannot improve upon the programme which I have mentioned, be-caused a great deal of detailed work has to be done before we can go out to tender.

Mr. Cronin

Bearing in mind that this carrier is to be equipped with American Phantom aircraft and that already £150 million worth of orders for American equipment have been requested for the Polaris submarine, can the hon. Gentleman assure the House that all the other equipment for this new carrier will be of British make?

Mr. Hay

I do not know. I should like to see that question on the Order Paper. There will be a number of items of equipment which might be of American or other foreign manufacture, or employing American or other ideas, but I should like to see that question on the Order Paper before giving a detailed and categorical answer to it.

Sir J. Maitland

Does not the anxiety expressed in these and the first Question on the Order Paper indicate how right the Government were to have a new aircraft carrier and to emphasise the importance of increasing this programme?

Mr. Hay

I take note of what my hon. Friend says. I think that we have the right programme.