Login Register

Ministers urged not to abandon Devonport for new frigate fleet

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 10, 2013

  • HMS Argyll, a Type 23 frigate, sails past Plymouth. Below: A new Type 26, which should be ready by 2020

Comments (1)

A Westcountry MP has urged ministers to avoid being "sentimental" over base porting Navy ships amid pleas from Portsmouth for work to fill the gap lost from ship-building.

Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, told the House of Commons the Government needs to "protect skills across all our bases" amid increased rivalry for vital British military deals.

In 2011, it was announced all seven of Plymouth's Type 23 frigates would remain in the city – removing the threat that they would be moved to Portsmouth, as proposed under the last administration.

The two dockyard cities are now vying to be the home for the Navy's new 13-strong fleet of Type 26 frigates – which replace the Type 23s – expected to be ready by around 2020.

But some commentators fear favouritism towards Portsmouth in the future after it was announced last month that shipbuilding would end in the Hampshire city, amid claims Scottish jobs were protected ahead of the independence vote north of the border.

During a Westminster Hall debate, Gosport Tory MP Caroline Dinenage, whose constituency borders Portsmouth, said the city was "devastated" by losing work on the Type 23s and said where shipbuilding jobs are "disappearing" they can be "back-filled by ship support work and fleet maintenance".

But Ms Seabeck told MPs the decision on base-porting the Type 26s "needs to be taken on strategic grounds".

She said: "We need to consider how we protect our skills base and we need to ensure that we do not have all our eggs in one basket. I listened with interest to [Mrs Dinenage], who made a plea for base-porting – in effect, all base-porting – to be in Portsmouth.

"As I have said, that, in my view, is a sentimental, not a strategic, view. We need to protect skills across all our bases.

"Clearly, I have a strong view about Plymouth and ensuring that we have a drumbeat that works for our work force as well."

Also in the debate, Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said the city was "quite willing" to be the home of nuclear submarines if discarded by an independent Scotland. Devonport has the only UK licence for refuelling and refitting of nuclear submarines.

Mr Colvile said: "We recognise that it is the stake in the ground, as far as Devonport is concerned. There has to be work going into Devonport. About 38% of people working in the city depend on the public sector.

"Another incredibly important point is that we have a low skills base. The one thing that Devonport and Plymouth have going for them is their 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."

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters
  • beowulfonline  |  December 10 2013, 9:50AM

    Early indications are that Scots will not vote for independence so we can probably discount the nuclear sub fleet moving to Plymouth. I thought Oliver Colvile wanted Devonport dockyard to become less military? Make up your mind Ollie.

    Rate 0
    Report

      YOUR COMMENTS AWAITING MODERATION

       
       

      MORE NEWS HEADLINES

       
       
       

      MOST POPULAR