Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, sought assurances on the capability and delivery of the nation’s new carriers in his first Public Accounts Committee hearing this week, as the committee’s newest member.
The UK buying two new carriers – HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales – are the largest warships ever built for the Royal Navy and will be base-ported in Portsmouth. The ships are designed to operate with up to 40 aircraft, with the Ministry of Defence planning to deliver the ‘carrier strike’ capability using Lightning II (F-35b) fast-jets. The carriers will also provide a base for other types of aircraft to offer greater flexibility.
In light of the strategic significance of the carriers to Britain, and the costs incurred, the Public Accounts Committee – Parliament’s oldest select committee scrutinising how Government money is spent – has been undertaking hearings with witnesses from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to find out how the carrier programme is doing and how effective the project management has been.
On Monday 4 December the committee heard from Stephen Lovegrove CB, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Rear Admiral Graeme Mackay CBE, Director of Carrier Strike, and Lieutenant-General Mark Poffley OBE, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff.
Stephen raised several questions at the committee with the witnesses on the contingency in the schedule of delivery of the carriers, detail on the First of Class Flying Trials for the F-35Bs, and plans for the crowsnest programme.
Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Whilst we can look forward to HMS Queen Elizabeth being commissioned by Her Majesty the Queen later this week in Portsmouth – the home to the Royal Navy – the next phase of the programme of delivery for the carriers is absolutely crucial.
It is essential the Government brings together the carriers, fast-jets and Crowsnest with trained crews and supporting infrastructure, logistics, communications and surveillance. It needs to test and operate all these elements together in preparation for deploying Carrier Strike in 2011.
Being on the Public Accounts Committee allows me to quiz those responsible for this strategically significant programme for the Royal Navy and our nation. Through my questioning of the MOD I aim to ensure the carriers benefit Britain, and vitally, benefit our great city of Portsmouth”.