RENEWED calls for the government to replace the navy’s frigates on a like-for-like basis have been made ahead of an announcement from the prime minister.
On a visit to Portsmouth yesterday, chancellor George Osborne revealed there would be news in the coming weeks on the upcoming Type 26 frigate programme.
Video shows the chancellor visiting to Portsmouth
He also said the ships – however many there may be – will be based in both Portsmouth and Plymouth.
The government has been consistently urged to order 13 new ships to replace the current fleet of Type 23s.
But concerns have been raised that the order could be reduced in the same way plans for the navy’s new Type 45 destroyers were knocked down from 12 to six.
When asked how many frigates would be ordered by the government, Mr Osborne told The News: ‘I can’t pre-empt that announcement.
‘The prime minister will have more to say in the coming weeks about the frigate programme.
‘But Portsmouth is going to be an absolute key home to those frigates and while some will also be based in Plymouth, Portsmouth is going to be a huge beneficiary of this.
‘The frigate shows we are committed to the future of this city and to Britain having the most modern navy in the world.’
Mr Osborne used his visit to the city yesterday to announce the government wanted to form a £100m national shipbuilding strategy with a view of having a new warship built every two years.
But Portsmouth’s Lib Dem leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said making the announcement in Portsmouth would cause ‘real offence’ to workers who lost their jobs when BAE’s shipbuilding division quit the city in 2013.
He said: ‘It seems to me a bit of a cheek to make an announcement about shipbuilding in the city where shipbuilding was cut. I think it will cause real upset and offence to people here who lost their jobs.
‘I don’t think the decision to base the new frigates in Portsmouth and Plymouth is the best decision for the Royal Navy. It would be better to have them all in one place and Portsmouth is the home of the surface ships. And there should be 13 of them as originally planned.’
During his visit to the city yesterday, Mr Osborne was given a water tour of the harbour and taken on board HMS Defender, the navy’s second newest warship, to see its capabilities.
Defender’s commanding officer, Commander Steve Higham, said: ‘It was an honour to host the chancellor of the exchequer today and update him on HMS Defender’s recent deployment to the Gulf in support of coalition air strikes against Isil in Iraq.’
As revealed by The News yesterday, Mr Osborne was also in Portsmouth to confirm the identities of three firms in the running to take over the shipyard.
Magma Structures, which builds free-standing rigs for large yachts; Burgess Marine, which specialises in ship repair and construction; and BAE Systems are strong contenders for the shiphalls.
Cash for good causes
GEORGE Osborne used his time in Portsmouth to dish out millions of pounds in grants to good causes in the area.
The chancellor announced £3m for causes which support Royal Navy families alongside projects which showcase naval history.
Mr Osborne visited Castaway House in Portsmouth, which is home to several military charities, yesterday.
The cash comes from fines levied on banks for manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) financial benchmark.
Among the grants announced was £1m for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity to support Royal Navy personnel and their families in Portsmouth through projects including refurbishing the Warrant Officers Mess in HMS Sultan in Gosport and renovating Navy Mews to provide flats so families can spend time with their loved ones in Portsmouth if they are deploying.
There was a further £1m for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity to enable support for a number of projects including help for the Naval Families Federation.
And another £1m was given to support Royal Navy heritage projects.