Aircraft carrier dilemma details emerge

By staff

Shipworkers would have been paid for doing nothing for 12 years if the defence review had turned its back on the two new aircraft carriers currently under construction, it has emerged.

In the run-up to the publication of the defence review uncertainty over the fate of the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, together costing £5 billion, attracted significant media attention.

Earlier this week David Cameron told the Commons the review had had little choice but to go ahead with the carriers because of damaging penalty clauses.

Details of these have now emerged. Labour ministers had entered into a 15-year deal protecting jobs in shipyards on the River Clyde and in Portsmouth, the Times reported.

It suggested Ministry of Defence insiders suspected Labour figures had signed off the contracts in a bid to secure support in the party’s heartlands.

“This was an agreement entered into by consenting adults,” BAE chief executive Ian King told the Times newspaper.

“I stated why the contract had been signed, what they were getting and the objective and that it was very important strategically and to our industrial capability.”

The two carriers will not be fully operational until 2020, when they will be used by the joint strike fighter aircraft.

The strategic defence and security review left the door open for the government to mothball one of them or even sell it overseas.