Royal Navy has 'greater role than ever' in patrolling world's seas to protect 'freedom of navigation'

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NAVY crews have a ‘greater role than ever’ in keeping the globe’s oceans open to all, the defence secretary has said as a £1.3bn contract for five new warships was confirmed.

MP Ben Wallace made the comments after Portsmouth-based Type 45 HMS Duncan this summer was in the Gulf with frigate HMS Montrose.

They were deployed in the wake of reprisals when Britain seized an Iranian tanker suspected of taking oil to Syria this summer.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning about the decision to hand Babcock the contract to construct five new Type 31 warships, Mr Wallace said the ‘threat on the horizon is the threat to the freedom of navigation of our high seas’.

READ MORE: HMS Duncan in the Gulf accompanying British ships

The ships will be assembled in Rosyth, Scotland, but the defence giant has not yet said where else in Britain work could be carried out. 

Mr Wallace said: 'Modern shipbuilding does involve many, many yards.’

Asked about the motive for building the warships, Mr Wallace added: 'All round British shipbuilding can be on the up, we need to help support our yards, give them help where it's needed for productivity and also make sure our orders where we can are placed in the UK to reinvigorate that sector.

READ MORE: Contract handed to Babcock for new Type 31 warships

‘We always need to modernise and update our armed forces but it is absolutely true that the threat on the horizon is the threat to the freedom of navigation of our high seas, whether that is Russia in the Arctic, whether that is China in the Pacific, whether at the moment it's in the straits of Hormuz by the Iranians.

‘Countries across the world that I speak to are worried about this threat to our global shipping traffic and that means there is a greater role than ever for our navy to uphold those freedoms of navigation.

‘We work well together, the Australians are going to come and join us in the straits of Hormuz to protect shipping there.

‘We work internationally to do that and it is all about upholding the international rules-based system that is so important for our society and our civilisation.’