APPARENTLY, following a switchboard fire on HMS Illustrious in August last year, the Government has spent £57,000 less on a replacement switchboard from the scrapped HMS Ark Royal which had been sold to Turkish ship-breakers.

This warrants several questions. Were there any operational problems caused by the fire?

By the long replacement delay, it wouldn’t appear so. Therefore why wait until the ship arrived back in this country before replacement with a switchboard from the scrapped sister ship?

Taxpayers, who pay for all equipment used by the armed forces, aren’t apparently allowed to know how much was paid for the switchboard. As a new switchboard would cost about £2 million, we can only assume, by subtracting the £57,000, that we paid “only” £1,943,000.

If so, this wouldn’t a bad return for the Turkish owners, who only paid just over £2 million for the whole ship.

However, the big question is this: why spend this huge amount of money on a ship which is going to be scrapped this year anyway?

Also, as Illustrious is our only fly-on, fly-off aircraft carrier, and she will be withdrawn from service soon, we will have a Royal Navy without an aircraft carrier until 2017 when HMS Queen Elizabeth enters service.

Philip Roe, Roman Avenue South, Stamford Bridge.