IF SCOTLAND doesn’t want nuclear submarines, Plymouth would be happy to have them, says a city MP.
The planned Scottish referendum on independence has sharpened the debate on the future location on Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
Oliver Colvile, the MP for Sutton and Devonport, told a debate in Parliament today: “Bluntly, we are quite willing to end up with them in Plymouth if we possibly can. We would welcome it.
“We recognise that it is the stake in the ground, as far as Devonport is concerned. There has to be work going into Devonport.”
He said Devonport and Plymouth had a global reputation for marine science and engineering research.
“The Royal Navy is a significant player in that sector, along with Plymouth University, and I hope that we can continue to build on that.”
Mr Colvile was speaking in a debate on future ships for the Royal Navy, instigated by Tobias Ellwood (Con, Bournemouth East).
He said the Royal Navy was important because we are an island nation which depends on sea routes.
“Could we imagine Christmas without oranges or the kinds of fruits that we depend upon being able to import?
“Looking at the events of the first and second world wars, we can see how close we came to finding ourselves starved to death by our aggressors.
“We must have a strong Navy, which will mean a strong Devonport and a strong Plymouth. I am very keen to ensure that.
“The issue is not just the seaborne deterrent, but how we can use our Royal Navy to deliver soft power.”
He added: “We must ensure that, in the next Strategic Defence and Security Review and in the next spending round, the Navy is recognised and has the Government’s full and utter support.”
Spending on defence has gone down from 4-5per cent of GDP in the 1990s to 2per cent now.
Mr Colvile accepted that the Government needed to control spending, but added: “Politics is about delivering priorities as well, and I believe that our chief priority should be the defence of our country.”
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said there needed to be a more clearly defined defence industrial strategy to cope with “feast and famine” in the shipbuilding industry.
“Sadly, we have had the announcement that shipbuilding in Portsmouth will cease.
“But around the UK, at smaller shipyards such as Appledore, and on the Clyde, we have centres of excellence where there are skills that we need to protect if we are to be able to continue to build ships, with sovereign capability.”
Both MPs pushed for the planned Type 26 global combat ships to be based in Devonport.
Calls to base all of the new ships in Portsmouth were “a sentimental, not a strategic, view”, Ms Seabeck said. “We need to protect skills across all our bases.”
Mr Colvile said later: “I don’t think there will be a decision soon, but we need to maintain the pressure on the Government.”