Anger after Royal Navy is hit by job cuts

FAREWELL Sailors on the Ark Royal wave
FAREWELL Sailors on the Ark Royal wave

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THE government was today urged to halt its defence cuts as thousands of sailors face redundancy.

There was anger after it was announced 1,600 sailors will pick up their P45 before the end of the year – despite ongoing operations in Libya and Afghanistan.

A further 4,000 sailors will be axed by 2015, meaning one in six will lose their job.

Gosport’s Tory MP Caroline Dinenage is leading calls for a government U-turn on the cuts outlined in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

She said: ‘The world has changed dramatically since the SDSR. We are facing a huge deal of uncertainty in Africa and the Middle East and I have some concerns about what we’re doing.

‘We need to take a bit more time over this.’

Former heads of the Royal Navy backed her call.

Admiral Lord Alan West said: ‘The Prime Minister must surely see the irony of cutting all the armed forces at the time he’s using them in Libya?

‘There’s uncertainty across that whole area from Algeria to Oman. Perhaps he should have a pause and run a rule over the SDSR.’

Admiral Sir Jock Slater, who drew up the last defence review in 1998, said: ‘There are those of us who warned six months ago that the cuts are too deep. All we can do now is turn around and say “I told you so”.’

The first tranche of job losses, which come into force in September, will see the navy cut 1,211 junior ratings and 274 senior ratings from various branches, and 121 officers up to the rank of captain from the warfare, engineering, medical and logistics branches.

Among them are 15 of the Fleet Air Arm’s 59 fixed-wing pilots, which have been axed in the wake of the decision to retire the Harrier jump jets and HMS Ark Royal.

Commodore Paul Bennett, the head of Royal Navy manning, admitted around two-thirds of the redundancies were a direct result of ‘capability reductions’.

He said: ‘We will have fewer ships and aircraft and so will need fewer people to operate them.’

Andy Smith of campaign group, UK National Defence Association, warned Britain’s defence cuts were ‘insane’ in the current climate, adding: ‘If recent events in the Arab world, and instability in other countries such as the Ivory Coast don’t illustrate just how dangerous the international situation is becoming, then I really don’t know what advice the Prime Minister is getting and from whom.

‘The government have taken a pause with their NHS reforms. Surely the worsening international security situation makes it just as justifiable to take a pause with defence cuts too?’

The Army will lose 1,000 soldiers this year, the MoD also announced yesterday.

A total of 7,000 soldiers will have to go by 2015.

The Royal Air Force announced 2,700 job cuts last month and will have to make a total of 5,000 by 2015.

The Ministry of Defence said no-one preparing for combat operations, deployed on operations or on post-operational tour leave on the day redundancy notices are issued will be made redundant unless they have volunteered to go.

Similarly, personnel who are wounded, injured or sick would not be made redundant until they recover.

The 1,600 naval job losses announced yesterday amount to five per cent of all ratings and two per cent of officers serving in the navy.

The service, which currently employs 35,000 people, will have slashed 5,600 jobs by 2015 – one in six sailors.

Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said: ‘We would of course prefer not to have to make any of our personnel redundant but unfortunately we inherited a huge deficit in the defence budget from our predecessors in government.’

The MoD said personnel being made redundant will receive help to assist them in their transition back into civilian life.

Robert Robson, chief executive of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, said: ‘The navy has got a pretty well organised redundancy process for these people and, as an independent charity, I’m amazed how the navy is looking at the human side in this issue.

‘There is plenty of support out there and charities are ready to play their part.’

At a glance

IN the first tranche of military job cuts, the Royal Navy will lose 1,600 sailors.

Of these, 1,211 are junior ratings, 274 senior ratings and 121 are officers.

The officers selected will be from the engineering, medical, warfare and logistics branches up to the rank of captain.

The navy said job losses within junior and senior rates would be from a ‘variety of branches’ but was unable to specify which branches yesterday.

Fifteen of the Fleet Air Arm’s 59 fixed-wing pilots will also go after the government got rid of Harrier jump jets.

Sailors have until next month to volunteer for redundancy.

In September, the Ministry of Defence will announce which sailors will be going.

If 1,600 do not volunteer for redundancy, the navy will enforce compulsory redundancies.

Volunteers will serve six months’ notice before leaving the armed forces while compulsory leavers will serve 12 months’ notice.

The government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) published last year said the navy must lose 5,000 sailors by 2015.

Another tranche of naval redundancies will be announced later this year.

A navy spokesman said a third tranche may be announced in March 2012 if it is required.

The Army announced it will make 1,000 redundancies in its first tranche of job cuts, including 150 Gurkhas.

Around 7,000 soldiers will be axed by 2015 in the SDSR.

The Royal Air Force announced plans to lay off 2,700 staff last month in a similarly staggered programme of cuts.

Calls for redundant sailors to get training

PORTSMOUTH MPs on the House of Commons Defence Select Committee called on the government to make sure military personnel who lose their jobs are given enough support to find a new career.

Lib Dem Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South called the job cuts a ‘tragedy’.

He said: ‘It’s a personal tragedy for all of these people who saw a career in the navy, particularly young men and women under 30 who still thought they had a long career ahead of them.

‘It’s bad news all round – these are highly-trained and qualified people that will not be replaced but it’s part of the burden the navy has had to undertake.

‘The government must bend over backwards to help these people coming out of the service in to a future life.’

Reacting to news only 121 officers will be made redundant in the first tranche of MoD job cuts, he said: ‘I would think the officers would be filleted quite heavily in the next tranche.’

Penny Mordaunt, Conservative MP for Portsmouth North said: ‘It is testament to the professionalism of the navy that they carry on doing their duty when we ask so much of them, and in this case announce redundancies whilst on deployment.

‘We must never allow this crisis in defence spending to happen again, ensure those losing their jobs are given every support to change careers and to reassure people entering service training now they can be confident about the navy’s future.

Dinenage: ‘I am worried as a navy wife and as an MP’

CAROLINE Dinenage knows more than most the impact the job cuts have on sailors and their families – her husband is an officer in the Royal Navy.

The Conservative MP for Gosport, who recently founded a navy group in the House of Commons, said: ‘Obviously it’s a concern to me because it potentially affects my family but I am worried both as a navy wife and as an MP.

‘There are a great deal of people who live in Gosport who will be either directly or indirectly affected by the cuts to our armed forces.’

Since the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was published in October last year, Ms Dinenage has written to defence chiefs to air her concerns.

She said: ‘The SDSR was done before we knew we were going to be making all these commitments in Libya and the situation developed in Africa and the Middle East.

‘It’s a very different world all of a sudden.

‘There is a great deal of instability at the moment and we really do not know where it’s going to go in places like Yemen, Bahrain or even Saudi Arabia.

‘In the back of my mind the thought of the Falklands flaring up never goes away as well.

‘That’s why I have some concerns about our movements here. I think the temptation is for the government to hold firm on its decisions but the world is so uncertain at the moment that now is the right time to be asking whether we should look again at the decisions we’ve taken.’