Portsmouth homecoming party for new aircraft carrier pushed back amid delay claims

HMS Queen Elizabeth at her current base in Rosyth, Scotland, during a fly-by    PHOTO:  Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
HMS Queen Elizabeth at her current base in Rosyth, Scotland, during a fly-by PHOTO: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Carol singing at the Eastney and Milton Neighbourhood Police team'sChristmas party for the elderly and vulnerable people of Portsmouth at St Swithuns Church Hall, Waverley Rd, Southsea.

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PLANS to bring the Royal’s Navy’s £3.1bn super-carrier into Portsmouth this May have been scuppered, The News can reveal.

Defence ministers were last night under pressure to confirm what was behind the delays to the maiden sea trails of HMS Queen Elizabeth.

The government now needs to be open and transparent about what is happening with the carriers

John Ferrett, negotiations officer for the Prospect Union

The 11-week test had been earmarked to take place in March, although now the government is refusing to confirm an exact date, instead citing some point in summer.

The setback means the 65,000-tonne behemoth will miss its own star-studded homecoming date.

Previously, bosses at Portsmouth City Council had been told to expect the carrier between May 28 and June 4 – with sources tipping May 29 as the official arrival of the navy flagship.

But now The News understands this date has been scrapped, with the council now being told to rearrange its calendar for a revised summer arrival, an exact date of which sources say will be revealed in a month.

The news has prompted pleas from union leaders for the government to come clean about the carrier’s delays.

John Ferrett, negotiations officer for the Prospect Union, said: ‘People in this city and in the dockyard have been let down a number of times in the past few years by the government.

‘There is not a lot of trust left. The government need to work on rebuilding that trust. They can do that by being open and honest with the people of Portsmouth.

‘The government now needs to be open and transparent about what is happening with the carriers.’

Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon and defence minister Harriett Baldwin have failed to provide reasons for the delay, only saying Queen Elizabeth would be ready by the end of the year.

Admiral Lord Alan West is also demanding answers. The former First Sea Lord said: ‘As it is we have had a gap without a carrier for a long time.

‘We’re living in a very dangerous world and a carrier is vital for our nation’s security.

‘So I would be dismayed if there has been a delay to this programme.’

Queen Elizabeth and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, are the largest vessels ever built by the navy.

BAE Systems, which is one of the defence firms behind their construction, said every effort is being made to ensure Queen Elizabeth is ready for her sea trial.

A spokeswoman said: ‘HMS Queen Elizabeth will undertake her maiden sea trials programme in the summer of 2017.’

HMS Prince of Wales is due in Portsmouth in 2019.