HC Deb 20 December 2000 vol 360 cc185-6W
Mr. Duncan Smith

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if the Royal Navy has sufficient manpower to keep two carriers operational in a sea going role throughout 2001; [143053]

(2) when he expects HMS Invincible to be placed in reserve; [143047]

(3) when the next refit of (a) HMS Invincible and (b) HMS Illustrious will take place; [143070]

(4) if HMS Invincible will be used as an operational sea going carrier in 2001; [143052]

(5) what the expected service life is of (a) HMS Invincible, (b) HMS Ark Royal and (c) HMS Illustrious. [143069]

Mr. Spellar

[holding answer 15 December 2000]: The Royal Navy does have sufficient manpower to keep two carriers operational, but during 2001 HMS Ark Royal will be coming out of refit and there will be times when manpower will be in transition to her from one of the other carriers. The transition plan could be reviewed immediately should the operational need arise to deploy two carriers. HMS Ark Royal will rejoin the Fleet capable of operating the new Merlin helicopter and the RN and RAF Harrier aircraft from Joint Force Harrier—a cost-effective way of maintaining a potent fixed-wing carrier capability until the new carriers enter service in 2012 and 2015.

There are no plans to place HMS Invincible in reserve. She will be used in an operational sea going role until April 2001 when she will enter a period of reduced readiness prior to commencing her refit period later in the year. HMS Invincible is currently programmed to return to operational status in 2003 on completion of the refit.

HMS Illustrious's next refit is scheduled to start in autumn 2002 and is expected to take about 23 months.

On current plans, the expected service lives of HMS Invincible, HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious will be 30 years.