The National Audit Office has expressed deep concern about the inclusion of state-of-the-art shopping malls on the decks of two of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers in the 2010 defence review.
Once building work is complete, sailors emerging from down below will be guided into a comfortable all-weather shopping area as they make their way towards their fighter planes for take-off. There they will be able to maximise their spends on items from a range of leading high-street designer stores such as Gucci, Hugo Boss and Harvey Nichols.
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said the report was "deeply worrying", especially after it emerged that hi-tech catapult and arrestor gear would need to undergo ‘significant sideways displacement’ to make way for a branch of Next.
The NAO has also queried whether the stores represent value for money and points out that there will be a significantly reduced target area on which planes can safely land.
Furthermore, the project has run into financial difficulties partly due to the inclusion of an elaborate £3m fountain near the mall entrance and the introduction of funky mood lighting throughout the twenty story developments.
Ms Hodge said, "It's a very depressing report. This is a project that has been plagued with poor decision-making especially with regard to the omission of discount stores such as Primark and H&M for sailors on a low budget. “
However, Defence Secretary Liam Fox refused to countenance the idea of a Primark on board the HMS Queen Elizabeth. A defiant Fox said,
“The presence of eye-catching bargains such as those offered by the more downmarket high street stores could cause rubbernecking pilots to overshoot what’s left of the runway and propel themselves and their planes to an untimely watery grave.”
“It’s also very important in this tough economic climate to project the right image and keep our financiers happy. ”
The HMS Trafford Centre is due to set sail from Portsmouth later next month.