Home » HMS Queen Elizabeth would have sailed in emergency, says Grant Shapps

HMS Queen Elizabeth would have sailed in emergency, says Grant Shapps

Dr Liam Fox, who as defence secretary in 2011 stopped the two aircraft carriers from being scrapped despite huge cuts elsewhere across the Ministry of Defence, described the breakdown as an “embarrassment”.

He told The Telegraph: “The carrier not working is an embarrassment. But there is a bigger problem, the Navy isn’t big enough. I’ve always believed that as a maritime nation who requires freedom of navigation of seas, for both the economic and national security of the country, the Navy should be given due priority.”

Last month, The Telegraph revealed that the Navy has so few sailors it has to decommission two warships to staff its new class of frigates.

HMS Westminster and HMS Argyll will be decommissioned this year, with the crews sent to work across the new fleet of Type 26 frigates as they come into service.

Penny Mordaunt, the former secretary of state, later warned Mr Shapps that Britain’s national interests were at risk unless the Royal Navy keeps pace with hostile nations.

‘We need a bigger Navy’

Dr Fox said: “We need a bigger Navy.  If you are going to have a carrier strike group you have to have a bigger force to protect it.”

Since November, dozens of drone and missile attacks have been launched against commercial and naval ships.  The attacks have caused major delays for global shipping, as tankers and container ships are re-rerouted around Africa to avoid the narrow Bab al-Mandab strait, the entry point to the Red Sea between Yemen and Djibouti.

While Britain and the US have launched joint air strikes on Houthi drone and missile sites, many have questioned the absence of one the UK’s aircraft carriers in the region. The Telegraph revealed that HMS Queen Elizabeth was not at optimal readiness for deployment because of a Navy staffing shortage, though defence sources insisted last month that both carriers were ready to be deployed to the region if necessary.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the issue on HMS Queen Elizabeth was “separate and not linked” to the earlier defect on its sister ship.

The spokesman said: “The issue identified is with the ship’s shaft couplings. The ship’s propeller shafts are too big to be made from a single piece of metal, so each shaft is made from three sections, which are connected using shaft couplings, which bind the shaft sections together.”