PORTSMOUTH will remain a critical part of the UK’s maritime defence strategy, the nation’s armed minister has said.
Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt, made the comments as prime minister David Cameron revealed a £178bn plan to boost the UK’s armed forces for the next five years.
It was part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review unveiled by the PM to MPs in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon.
But critics say the funding is not enough to make up for cuts to the armed forces in recent years.
As part of that plan, Mr Cameron pledged the Royal Navy would be one of those to benefit from the £12bn boost in the nation’s defence budget.
He told the Commons at least 13 new frigates and two new off-shore patrol vessels would be bought.
These would include eight Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates – slightly down on the numbers naval chiefs had hoped for.
However, to allay this, the PM promised the government would ‘design and build a new class of light, flexible, general purpose frigates’ which would ultimately help to boost the overall number of warship’s in the Royal Navy’s fleet by the 2030s.
Responding to the announcement, Ms Mordaunt said: ‘A bigger surface fleet, two full carrier crews with the additional people to man them, an increase in the F35s, and more off-shore patrol vessels and frigates is great news for Portsmouth.
‘All three services have a massively enhanced capability, which we can deliver because we have chosen to protect defence spending and increase the budget, year on year.
‘There is no more important job for a government than to protect its people.
‘Portsmouth will remain a critical part of our capability, and has a bright future ahead.’
However, Andrew Smith, chief executive of the Portsmouth-based campaign group United Kingdom National Defence Association, said the funding was not enough.
He said a ‘significant increase’ in armed forces manpower was needed across all three services.
‘The prime minister promised “more ships, more planes, more people” but he seems to mean just a few hundred more people and that just isn’t good enough,’ said Mr Smith.
‘We have lost thousands of personnel from the navy, army and RAF since 2010 and now is the time to reverse those ill-judged redundancy programmes in the three services. Our forces have been hollowed out in the last five years, and in the military more than anywhere else numbers of personnel really matter.’
During his speech, Mr Cameron said that the move to build a new class of ‘multi-purpose’ frigates could have a range of benefits – not least in boosting the Royal Navy’s overall fleet.
Speaking of the new frigates, he told MPs: ‘Not only one we can create for ourselves but hopefully one we’ll be able to sell more overseas as well.
‘And this opens the possibility to seeing the number of capital ships in our navy going up rather than down.’
The news of new shipbuilding contracts as well as a pledge for more fighter jets has been welcomed by Ian King, chief executive of BAE Systems.
He said the review provided ‘continuity and stability’ for BAE, adding: ‘An increased budget for defence equipment overall includes significant investments in military aerospace, maritime, cyber and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and ongoing support for defence exports.’