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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 January, 2004, 10:48 GMT
Warships plans 'still in infancy'
HMS Glasgow
Warship HMS Glasgow is among four to be axed, according to reports
The Royal Navy insists no decisions have been made about shrinking its fleet, following reports it is to lose four warships in the next three months.

Restructuring plans were still in their early stages, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said, dismissing a Daily Telegraph story as "premature".

The possible scrapping of some older vessels would be countered by the introduction of new ones, he said.

The changes would be introduced "some time in 2004", the spokesman added.

Older ships

"It is likely that some of the older ships could be taken out because they do not have as much capability as some of the new ships being brought in," he said.

"We have made an order for six Type-45 destroyers and it is planned to produce up to 12 new ships."

The Daily Telegraph report said the cut in ship numbers was being brought about by budget cuts announced in last month's defence White Paper.

It identified the four Type-42 destroyers to be axed as Newcastle, Cardiff, Glasgow and Liverpool.

The MoD said: "These vessels may well be among those that are being talked about but no firm decisions have been made.

Nicholas Soames

The defence budget is in a real crisis and... we are going to have to deal with it

Nicholas Soames MP

"We are not in a position to say we are reducing our fleet. [We may need] less, the same or more [ships]. We have no idea."

Conservative defence spokesman Nicholas Soames told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The defence budget is in a real crisis and we must acknowledge that and we are going to have to deal with it.

"I think people will be quite astonished that - at a time when the forces have delivered so spectacularly... it appears the government are going to cut the resources that are their rightful due, given the operations they are now having to undertake," he said.

Mr Soames declined to say how the Tories would fund extra defence spending, but pledged to lobby hard "to make sure we have what we need for our troops to go on performing the way they have".

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