Navy insists Portsmouth is ready for new carriers

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and HM Naval Base Portsmouth.

Picture: Shaun Roster
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and HM Naval Base Portsmouth. Picture: Shaun Roster
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THE Royal Navy has rubbished claims that ageing power cables at Portsmouth Naval Base could threaten the ability of the Royal Navy’s £6bn aircraft carriers to operate.

A report by Whitehall watchdog the National Audit Office said there was a lack of funding to replace 80-year-old power cables at the city’s naval base, threatening the future of HMS Queen Elizabeth in 2017.

HMS Queen Elizabeth

HMS Queen Elizabeth

But today the navy has hit back, saying brand new electrical power cables have been brought into the base to service the carrier berths.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Portsmouth Naval Base will be ready to receive and support the first aircraft carrier next year.

‘New electrical power cables have been brought in and were switched on in September.

‘As part of the infrastructure planning for the aircraft carriers, a brand new substation was built this year to support the power delivery through the new electrical cables.’

Despite plans to sell 25 per cent of the defence estate by 2040, the NAO said there was still an £8.5bn shortfall in the funding needed to maintain and update facilities over the course of the next 30 years.

Now the former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord Alan West, has called for urgent action to be taken.

He said: ‘This reflects what I have been saying and questioning for the past two years.

‘The government keeps saying how everything is rosy, how they’re increasing money on defence and everything is great.

‘But the reality is there is insufficient money for the defence programme.’

Last week defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced the MoD would be selling off another 56 bases – including HMS Sultan in Gosport.

Responding to the NAO’s report, the MoD said: ‘We’ve outlined a long-term military-led strategy to invest £4bn in training facilities and better service accommodation.’

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, said the challenge the navy faced in upgrading the base had been ‘immense’ but that she was confident in the investment in historic military base.

‘The investment in the dockyard will ensure we are able to remain the home of the surface fleet,’ the former armed forces minister said.