Like many people around Portsmouth, I was surprised to read yesterday's report from the National Audit Office criticising the arrangements being made in our Naval Base for the new aircraft carriers. They published a report stating that the Dockyard's electricity supply could not cope with the new aircraft carriers.
In fact, MoD has been planning the upgrade of the Naval Base so that it is as modern as our Type 45 destroyers and the aircraft carriers. Over £100m has been invested in upgrading it. That includes a programme of dredging the harbour, which results in the occasional unexploded bomb as we found today.
I would like to thank the bomb disposal teams who deal with these old bombs - just because they have been under water for 70 years does not mean they pose no threat to life. Special thanks are also due to the Police and Council teams who have helped today with keeping people safe around the harbour. Dealing safely with unexploded bombs does cause inconvenience and disruption, but the authorities are absolutely right to put safety first.
The work to modernise the Dockyard has been going on for several years, which was why the NAO report was a surprise. The electricity supply to the Dockyard has been upgraded. Many of you will have seen the road works around the Warblington St substation which were a part of this. A new substation in the Dockyard, built to supply the carriers, has just been completed. There has been a lot of work on the specific area the NAO complain about, and I wonder if they are aware of the work that has recently been completed.
I have written to the head of the National Audit Office to ask how they came to the conclusion they did, because it does not match the picture we see in Portsmouth. I have had no concerns about this passed on from the Royal Navy, which I would certainly have expected if they had worries. I have spoken to the Ministry of Defence, and their view is that everything is on track so that the Naval Base is ready before HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives here next year.
If I had any suspicions that the preparations were falling short, I would be the first to raise them with the Ministry of Defence. But as far as I am aware today, everything is going well and the workers who have put so much in to this huge programme deserve our thanks.