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Fury at PM's snub to Portsmouth after navy cuts

There was anger today after it emerged Prime Minister David Cameron ruled out a visit to Portsmouth in the wake of cuts to the Royal Navy.

Plans had been discussed for Mr Cameron to visit flagship HMS Ark Royal with French president Nicolas Sarkozy at Portsmouth Naval Base next Tuesday.

But sources have confirmed to The News that the idea was shelved soon after the aircraft carrier became a high-profile casualty of the defence cuts announced last week.

In what has been seen as a snub to both Portsmouth and the navy, Mr Cameron will now meet Mr Sarkozy in London instead.

Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, said: 'It's a great shame. The Ark has a crew and is in full working order so a visit should have happened. It would have been a chance for the Ark and our city to shine.'

The leaders will discuss further military co-operation between Britain and France.

There was a plan for the Prime Minister to show the French president Ark Royal before taking him on a wider tour of Portsmouth Naval Base. But the idea was scrapped in order to move the focus away from Portsmouth following the decision to axe the navy's flagship and nine other vessels as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Commander John Muxworthy, chief executive of Portsmouth-based UK National Defence Association, which campaigns against cuts to the armed forces said: 'The assumption has got to be that this decision has been made to save Mr Cameron from the huge embarrassment of the fact that this country is disarming. He is trying to hide away from the fact this was not a defence review, it was a cuts review.'

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson questioned why the meeting could not have been in the city even if Ark Royal was deemed unsuitable.

He said: 'Ark Royal is a well-loved vessel in the fleet but there are the new Type 45s which are very impressive ships and there are also many sites in Portsmouth they could have visited.

'It's disappointing but I hope both of them will be able to visit here in the future.'

A spokesman for Mr Cameron said: 'We considered a range of events. It's not going to be held in Portsmouth.'

THE QUEEN'S VISIT IS STILL ON DESPITE TORY LEADER PULLING OUT

The Queen is still set to visit HMS Ark Royal next week to celebrate the ship's 25th anniversary.

Her Majesty will be onboard the scrapped aircraft carrier on Friday, November 5.

She will be greeted on arrival by the Ark's commanding officer, Captain Jerry Kyd.

Following a Royal Salute, the Queen will inspect the guard of honour before a service of commemoration and a flypast.

Once on board, the Queen will meet pilots and other personnel and view displays illustrating the ship's recent work.

A group photograph of Her Majesty with the commanding officer and departmental representatives will be taken on the quarterdeck.

Afterwards, she will join a reception in the hanger attended by up to 1,000 of the ship's company and their families.

Following an all-ranks lunch on board, Her Majesty will disembark the Ark and move to a marquee where she will meet affiliates and further members of the ship's company.

The Queen will cut the silver jubilee cake, sign the visitors' book and receive a posy before departing mid-afternoon.

 
 
 

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