Today is the Parliamentary debate on Libya. MPs’ response to Friday’s statement by the Prime Minister suggests that there will be strong support for the military action. Our Armed Forces will know that they have the backing of the whole country.
It is also important that MPs exercise oversight of how our Armed Forces are kitted out. To do this we need appropriate information from the government, so we can seek to ensure that the right procurement choices are made.
On Friday I asked the Prime Minister about the decision to decommission our current aircraft carrier capability, and whether this should now be reconsidered:
Simon Hoggart wrote up the exchange as follows in his Parliamentary sketch:
Then the laudatory slathering. Labour’s Mike Gapes offered congratulations. So did the Tory Richard Ottaway, “as one of the doubting Thomases”, now praising a “remarkable diplomatic success”.
It was left to Mark Reckless, another Tory, to point out that the Ark Royal filled with Harriers would be the perfect weapon, except that they are being decommissioned. Mr Cameron had little response to that, except to say that other countries weren’t using aircraft carriers.
I was surprised to read in yesterday’s Sunday Times both that:
France, which had 20 aircraft in the air last night, will send its only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, into acton today.
At RAF high command in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, senior officers concluded that the most flexible rapid response force would be aircraft stationed on a carrier off the Libyan coast. But there was no carrier nor any planes to fly off one since the Ark Royal’s Harrier GR9 jump jets had been retired in December. So the planners considered another possibility.
They wondered whether they could bring some of the Harriers back into service and deploy them on a former container ship, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus, making vertical take off and landings.