Carrier Strike Group Deployment - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:43 pm on 28 April 2021.

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Photo of Lord Tunnicliffe Lord Tunnicliffe Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow Minister (Transport) 6:43, 28 April 2021

My Lords, we welcome this first major deployment of the “Queen Elizabeth”. The “Queen Elizabeth” and the “Prince of Wales” are the most powerful surface ships ever constructed in Britain. They will strengthen our maritime forces for decades to come, and this maiden mission for the “Queen Elizabeth” is a great achievement for the Royal Navy and a proud moment for our country. Britain has not had a carrier strike force since 2010, when the defence review scrapped all three of our aircraft carriers. This deployment fills a big gap in Britain’s military capability over the past decade. I hope the Minister can confirm that the “Queen Elizabeth” is fully crewed and that the carrier strike group is fully combat ready.

The successful design and build of our two new aircraft carriers is a tribute to the UK’s shipbuilding industry and our UK steelmakers. Can the Secretary of State confirm how much UK-produced steel will be used in the new Type 26s, Type 31s, Astute, Dreadnought and fleet solid support ships?

The new Defence and Security Industrial Strategy states that the Government will publish an updated shipbuilding strategy which

“will set out how the government intends to create the conditions for success for all parts of the enterprise, from shipyards building warships”.

Can the Minister update the House on when the new strategy will be published and how we will be able to monitor its success? This is a big opportunity to back British industry and jobs. The carrier strike group will sail east with the support of US and Dutch naval warships, and with US F-35 fighters on board. It is good that the HMS “Queen Elizabeth” sails with allies, but it is not good if she can sail only with allies. When, if ever, will there be enough British warships to sail with our own British carriers?

This deployment comes on the back of the integrated review, which rightly said that Russia remains

“the most acute threat to our security”.

Can the Minister confirm that the return of HMS “Queen Elizabeth” to military business will involve patrolling the north Atlantic, the high north and the Mediterranean, our NATO area, where Russia poses the greatest threats to our vital national interests?