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New concerns over cost of Clyde carriers

Defence ministers are under pressure to clarify whether or not the £6billion programme to build two giant aircraft carriers in Glasgow is still on track.

MPs on the Commons Defence Committee today demand assurances that the project, originally designed to cost £3.5bn, will not face extra costs or delays.

A report by the committee also warns the Ministry Of Defence (MoD) is in danger of running short of nuclear safety engineers and other specialist staff.

Ministers are expected to confirm the final budget and timetable for the two carriers soon, after the project was beset by delays and cost overruns.

Last year ministers were forced to perform a U-turn and change the type of planes that will fly from the carriers. The move was all the more embarrassing as they were forced to revert to an earlier Labour-backed aircraft.

In today's report MPs say: "We ask the MoD to confirm whether the carrier programme is now on track and whether it now expects the programme to proceed without further significant cost or time overruns."

The two massive vessels were originally priced at £3.5 billion by the then Labour Government in 2007.

However, controversy has long dogged the project, not least when it emerged in 2010 that it would be more expensive to scrap the carriers than to build them.

Last year The Herald revealed that MoD officials were given just hours to pull together the botched plans to accommodate new planes.

Shadow defence secretary Vernon Coaker said: "This report is more evidence of complacency, inefficiency and a lack of transparency in the Ministry Of Defence under David Cameron."

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: "This committee report highlights familiar dismal themes - procurement mishandling, waste and poor auditing.

"Perhaps more alarming is that the MoD didn't realise handing out thousands of P45s would lead to an overall outflow of personnel, particularly in vital 'pinch point' trades.

"This report details the legacy of the many poor decisions the UK MoD has taken.

"The chickens have come home to roost."

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