Hesketh quits Babcock after attack on carrier deal

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The Independent Online

Lord Hesketh, who labelled the £5.2bn project to build two new Royal Navy aircraft carriers a "disaster" that will make Britain a "laughing stock", has resigned as deputy chairman of Babcock International, the engineering group whose Rosyth yard, in Fife, is building the vessels.

Babcock distanced itself from the remarks, characterising them as "personal comments which do not in any respect reflect the views of the company" and said that, along with its partners, it was "focused on delivering this major upgrade to UK's defence capability on time and to budget".

According to newspaper reports, Lord Hesketh said that the project was a "Loony Tunes" operation and criticised BAE Systems, the main contractor on the programme, for having a "vested interest" that had made the project more expensive.

The vessels will have to be equipped with catapults to launch the new F35 fighter jets, which are being built by BAE and US defence contractor Lockheed Martin. But the carriers will not have the aircraft on board for several years as they will not be available until 2020.

Lord Hesketh, who had been non-executive deputy chairman of Babcock since 1996 and a non-executive director of the company since 1993, said that instead of drafting in the new planes, it would have been quicker and cheaper to adapt the RAF's existing crop of Typhoon aircraft for naval use. He is reported to have said that this would have been less lucrative for BAE.

BAE said it did not recognise the view given by Lord Hesketh, and that it remained "absolutely committed" to the project.

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