HC Deb 15 April 2002 vol 383 cc713-4W
Mr. Gray

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects HMS Albion to be fully operational; what refit would be necessary to keep HMS Fearless in operation for one more year; how much it would cost; whether he has considered recommissioning HMS Intrepid; whether he foresees any need for CPD capability in the next 12 months; and what contingency plans he has in place. [46971]

Mr. Ingram

On current plans, HMS Albion will be available for operational tasking early in 2003, and she is expected to be fully operational by mid 2003. HMS Fearless would have needed to undergo and assisted maintenance period at an estimated cost of about £1.5 million to allow her to continue in service for a year beyond her decommissioning date. The assisted maintenance period represented the minimum package of work required to keep HMS Fearless in service. Given the age of the vessel, the possibility of additional unplanned repair during this period could not be ruled out. The cost of re-commissioning HMS Intrepid, the sister ship of HMS Fearless, which last put to sea in 1994, would greatly exceed the cost of HMS Fearless's foregone assisted maintenance period. It would not therefore make financial sense to re-commission HMS Intrepid.

The requirement for a docking and heavy lift capability needs to be considered in the prevailing operational context at any particular time. Our assessment is that until HMS Albion enters service, the circumstances in which it is most likely that the UK wold be involved in an operation requiring a dedicated amphibious assault capability would be where we were acting as part of a coalition force. In such a scenario, depending on the requirements of the operation, a docking and heavy lift capability could be provided from within the forces of our coalition partners to enhance the UK's specialist amphibious capabilities of HMS Ocean and the five landing ships logistic. HMS Ocean is available for amphibious force tasking until October this year when she is due, on current plans, to commence a docking period before she again becomes available for tasking early in 2003. However until HMS Albion enters service, the amphibious assault capability will, if operational imperatives dictate, be filled in part by other platforms.

Mr. Gray

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the answer of 11 March 2002,Official Report, column 326W, on strategic lift transport ships, what the date is for the keel lay of HMS 'Beach Head'; and when she is to be delivered. [47391]

Dr. Moonie

I assume that the question refers to the answer that appeared on 6 March 2002,Official Report, columns 325–26W. I refer the hon. Member to my pursuant answer of 10 April 2002, Official Report, column 32W. The delivery date is 30 April 2003. Beachy Head will be a commercial ship with the designation motor vessel (my) not HMS.

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