It is our proud boast that we are a seafaring nation, and this is almost invariably an outward-looking vision; we see ourselves setting forth from these shores in the spirit of discovery and adventure.
The truth is we are seafarers of necessity; the seas are as essential to our existence as the air we breathe, only they are becoming a more and more fragile resource.
Ninety-five per cent of Britain’s trade, imports and exports is conducted by sea and by tonnage our ports are the largest in Europe. If the safe passage of our exported goods and those which fill our shops was jeopardised and ultimately disrupted, life would become unrecognisable in a matter of weeks.
If the UK-based shipping industry were damaged, £3bn of revenue for the Exchequer would be in doubt.
Standing in the way of this future unknown is the Royal Navy.
In Portsmouth we are familiar with the navy, but for many people it only occasionally comes to the fore of their consciousness when missiles have to be fired or people evacuated.
Yet every day the navy is at work in the defence of this country’s interests. In our own waters and across 10,500 miles of coastline our fish stocks and natural energy resources must be defended (to which end I am pressing for the commission of new Ocean Patrol Vessels to be built in Portsmouth).
Across the seven seas vital shipping lanes are kept open through the presence of Her Majesty’s ships to ensure that there is food on our shelves and that our energy supplies are secure.
Each October we celebrate the great naval triumph of Trafalgar and give thanks for Lord Nelson’s sacrifice for his country. At this year’s Parliamentary Trafalgar Night, I wanted to emphasise the navy’s broader role and was very grateful that the new Treasury Minister, Sajid Javid, came to pay tribute to the Senior Service and all it does to drive our economy. The Parliamentarians there left in no doubt about how vital it is to have a strong navy if we are to prosper.