Aircraft carriers ‘will be spared’ in defence review

By Peter Wozniak

The decision has been finalised to save the building programme for two new aircraft carriers, according to a report.

The National Security Council (NSC) has met for the final time before the release of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) next week, indicating that the major decisions have now been completed.

According to the Herald newspaper in Scotland, where the carriers are to be built, it has all but been set in stone that the carrier programme will go ahead.

The full announcements will occur on Monday and Tuesday of next week, before the chancellor sets out the full comprehensive spending review on October 20th – one day later.

It had been suggested that the cost of the building programme, at £5 billion, would make the carriers prime candidates for cuts in the defence budget.

However, it emerged that if the government were to cancel one or more of the vessels at this stage, it may actually cost more money to do so.

Scottish politicians, including Gordon Brown have pleaded with the defence secretary to spare the carriers from the austerity drive which is overshadowing the SDSR.

However, if the carriers are saved, it is likely that cuts to the defence budget will have to come from elsewhere – particularly from the rest of the Royal Navy surface fleet and the RAF.

It is also probable that one of the carriers, once completed, will lie fallow in port to save costs.

The defence secretary Liam Fox has been engaged in a tumultuous fight with the Treasury to escape the brunt of cuts.

Dr Fox will however have gained some reassurance from David Cameron’s conference speech, when he declared he would “not take risks with Britain’s security”.