A ministry of defence spokeswoman said the aircraft carrier Illustrious and the warship Bulwark would shortly be sent to the Middle East, but she would not comment on news reports that they would be used to evacuate Britons from the area.


"As you would expect we are monitoring the situation closely and are engaging in prudent contingency planning," said the spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government policy.


"As part of this HMS Illustrious and HMS Bulwark will shortly head toward the region. They have been given no specific tasking."