HC Deb 22 May 1973 vol 857 cc206-7
17. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the order for a through-deck cruiser.

The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Mr. Antony Buck)

As my hon. Friend announced on 17th April, in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), we have now placed the order for HMS "Invincible" with Messrs. Vickers of Barrow. We expect the ship to enter service towards the end of the decade.—[Vol. 855, c. 240–42.]

Mr. Dalyell

Does it make operational sense to order one through-deck cruiser without ordering three?

Mr. Buck

We have announced that this will be the first of a class. We have to make the first order, and it makes sense to place the order in the way that we have done.

Mr. Wall

When will a decision be announced whether these ships will operate vertical take-off and landing aircraft?

Mr. Buck

We hope that this announcement will be made before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Mr. Judd

Is there any impact on this in terms of the recent announcement of cuts in defence expenditure? Are there break clauses in the contract, or shall we go ahead come what may? Will the hon. Gentleman look again at the question and realise that the morale of naval aviators demands that we have a convincing and comprehensive policy statement as early as possible?

Mr. Buck

The matters announced yesterday do not affect this project. The whole of our NATO commitments and so forth are unaffected by what was announced yesterday. As to VSTOL, we are conscious of the need to make an early decision about this and we are pressing on with our studies of that which has been delivered to us by industry.

Mr. John Morris

Are there break clauses in the contract?

Mr. Buck

Perhaps I might have notice of the details of the question. This is a contract which has been made for this craft, and it is a firm contract.