DEFENCE secretary Gavin Williamson has taken a potshot at Treasury officials over chatter one of the Royal Navy’s two mighty aircraft carriers could be scrapped to save cash, branding the rumours ‘bizarre and stupid’.
The senior Tory categorically denied there were any plans to mothball either HMS Queen Elizabeth or HMS Prince of Wales.
His statement followed a claim during a parliamentary debate last month that finance chiefs in the Treasury were still considering axing Prince of Wales in a desperate bid to plug a multi-billion pound black hole in the nation’s defence budgets.
However, speaking today at an event at Portsdown Technology Park, on Portsdown Hill, the defence secretary shrugged off the comments and branded them ridiculous.
‘We have made a multi-billion pound investment in these two great aircraft carriers,’ he said.
‘It would be bizarre and stupid to look at canning one of those aircraft carriers after that multi-billion pound investment.’
Pressed further on whether this meant the carriers were safe from the chop, he insisted: ‘There are no plans to get rid of either of those mighty aircraft carriers.’
The Conservative bigwig’s comments came as Queen Elizabeth set sail from Portsmouth this morning to travel to Rosyth, in Scotland, where she will undergo a period of maintenance.
Hundreds of people lined the seafront in Southsea, Old Portsmouth and Gosport, to wave off the £3.1bn warship as she was guided out of Portsmouth’s historic harbour.
The gigantic 65,000-tonne warship - the biggest ever built for the Royal Navy - will be in the Scottish port for several months.
It will be the first time she has reunited with her sister ship since leaving Rosyth for sea trials in June 2017.
Meanwhile, final preparation work is continuing on Prince of Wales to complete the ship before she goes to sea later this year.
The 280m-long aircraft carrier is expected to make her maiden voyage to Portsmouth in the autumn.
Mr Williamson said it would be a proud moment for the nation seeing both the warships on active operations.
He added: ‘You’re going to see HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales sailing right across the globe, flying the flag for Great Britain, being a great symbol of what our nation and what we can do but also, most importantly, keeping our nation safe.’
Both of the vessels will be based in Portsmouth, which has undergone a £100m revamp in recent years to accommodate the two huge supercarriers.
Each will have an operational lifespan of 50 years.
HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first operational deployment will be in 2021.
She will sail to the Mediterranean, Middle East and Pacific region.