HC Deb 13 December 1999 vol 341 cc1-3
2. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

When the type 45 destroyer will enter service. [100954]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Peter Kilfoyle)

On current plans, the type 45 destroyer is expected to enter service with the Royal Navy in 2007.

Mr. Leigh

In 2007. Given the massive cuts in the defence budget, can the Minister guarantee even that derisory date?

Mr. Kilfoyle

The massive cuts came under the previous Government not this one, and they were cuts by stealth rather than by the comprehensive review that the strategic defence review represented. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, the type 45 will come on stream in 2007 and it will be managed in such a way that there will be no depletion of operational capability whatsoever.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde)

If these vessels are to come into operation and are to join the fleet in 2007, the orders for their construction will have to be signed soon. Dare I remind my hon. Friend the Minister that many of my constituents and other people who work along the Clyde want those orders to be signed and want a fair share of the work to come to the Clyde shipyards?

Mr. Kilfoyle

The orders for construction will be made in the new year. We are conscious that the shipbuilding industry in certain parts of the country relies heavily upon its capability for building military vessels. The Clyde will get more than its share of those contracts on the basis of its capacity to compete effectively with other yards around the country.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford)

Does the Minister agree with the many people who are worried that the type 45 will carry the French SYLVER missile launcher, which will launch only one type of missile? Would it not be better to equip the ship with a multiple system that could fire Tomahawks and other missiles? That would turn this anti-aircraft destroyer into a truly multi-role combat vessel.

Mr. Kilfoyle

I think that the intention to purchase the principal anti-air missile system, as it develops, is very judicious. That will meet the operational demands that have been set out. I am absolutely confident that it will meet the needs of the Royal Navy, using the type 45 as its platform.

Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton)

After all the delays to the project that took place under the previous Government, may I welcome the fact that it is now back on track? Does that not demonstrate the great benefits that there will be from smart procurement? What is my hon. Friend doing to ensure that smart procurement is being driven through at all levels in the Ministry of Defence, so that it is fully realised as early as possible?

Mr. Kilfoyle

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that this development comes from the previous Government's failure to ensure that the Horizon programme was properly conceptualised. We have ensured that the same deadline dates and the same operational capacities will be met. Our adherence to the principles of smart procurement will ensure that, in future, such purchases will be cheaper, will be delivered faster and will be far more efficient.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)

The type 45 destroyer was announced in 1992 with an in-service date of 2002. Yes, that date slipped two years under the Conservative Government, but it has slipped three years in two years under this Government. That is just part of the problem. There is a lot of big talk about two aircraft carriers, but there is nothing said about the ships that will defend them or about the replacement for the type 23. We know that they are short of money to the tune of about £1 billion a year and that there is no hope of the £2 billion saving from smart procurement. When, for the sake of an industry that both sides of the House are interested in preserving, will we receive some straight answers? The compendium of staff requirements and targets was due for publication in September, but that date slipped into the spring. We have not had the strategic defence review figures on budget forecasts or a comprehensive spending review of more than a few lines. Will the Minister guarantee that we shall have before Christmas the first White Paper on defence spending since 1996 and will he guarantee that we shall debate it when the House returns in January?

Mr. Kilfoyle

The hon. Gentleman overstates the case—to put it mildly—on the success or otherwise of the Horizon project. He makes rather spurious claims about slippage, but I assure him that the present Government took a very brave decision when they decided to review the plans for the type 45. We found out what the real slippage was and understood plainly what the previous Government failed to understand. We understood that we needed to ensure that we have the industrial capacity to meet such a complex order and to ensure that it takes place within a framework of affordability. The previous Government failed to do either.

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