Anger at cuts which left no ships guarding Britain

HMS Portland was the last designated Fleet Ready Escort
HMS Portland was the last designated Fleet Ready Escort
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DEFENCE secretary Philip Hammond has been called on to explain why Britain has been left without a single warship to protect the country’s shores for the last four weeks.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy reacted with fury yesterday after The News revealed military cuts and the war in Libya had created a gap in Britain’s home defences.

He said: ‘This proves Labour’s arguments that cuts made in the defence review and unforeseen events around the world have limited Britain’s capacity to act militarily.

‘The country will be expecting a response from the new defence secretary.’

The Royal Navy normally provides a minimum coverage of one frigate or destroyer fulfilling the role of Fleet Ready Escort (FRE).

The ship must be at high readiness for an emergency, including a terrorist attack, in UK waters or abroad, or a search and rescue operation.

However, pressures on the Royal Navy caused by cuts to its fleet in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review, as well as its commitments to the Nato mission to Libya, has left it unable to fill the role since the start of October.

A navy spokesman confirmed yesterday that the next FRE would be formally notified on November 7 – more than four weeks after the last FRE left the post.

He added that if an FRE ship was required urgently prior to that she would be nominated immediately.