Head of Royal Navy tells Government not to cut ships
MORALE among the Navy is being hit by the fear of future cuts the UK's top sailor has warned.
First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, has said in a speech the
Senior Service was bracing itself for possible reductions under the
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forthcoming defence review, and acknowledged there would be "some
To an audience including Defence Minister
Baroness Taylor, he said that at a time of funding pressures, the fleet
needed to be maintained to help protect the nation and its allies.
The priority was "to keep the navy at sea" to uphold the service's morale, training and capability.
Mark also admitted that the decision to build the next generation of
aircraft carriers could be overturned, which could have serious
consequences for Devonport in terms of work and jobs.
week Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said the number of new nuclear
missile-carrying submarines could be cut from four to three, which
would also have implications for Plymouth, which refits the current
Trident-armed vessels and has multi-million-pound purpose-built
submarine maintenance facilities.
Mr Ainsworth said prioritising the war in Afghanistan meant that "major shifts" in defence spending cannot be ruled out.
comes amid fears that the Navy will bear the brunt of the strategic
defence review that is set to see military spending slashed.
years of fighting in Afghanistan and previously Iraq, there are senior
military figures who argue that more resources should be switched to
the Army, which has borne the brunt of recent operations.
It led top Navy brass to warn of the dangers of "sea blindness" among policy-makers.
has also emerged that Chancellor Alistair Darling has been holding a
series of meetings with his Cabinet colleagues to identify areas where
spending can be cut, after Gordon Brown admitted for the first time
that reductions would be needed.
Speaking onboard the navy's flagship HMS Illustrious yesterday, Sir Mark said the Navy was preparing itself for cutbacks.
said: "Will the Navy have to make sacrifices? There is not as much
money in the defence budget as they would wish there to be.
"Alongside the other two services we will have to make some difficult decisions."
He added that morale amongst Navy personnel was being affected by fears over possible future cuts.
worry about the future and have a huge interest in the future and are
proud to be part of an organisation that is currently doing the
business the nation wants them to do and they want to make sure in the
future it is the same," said Sir Mark.
And responding to
questions, he admitted that the decision to build the next generation
of aircraft carriers could be overturned.
Although contracts had
been signed to build both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales,
which are due to enter service from 2015, the defence review could
cause plans to change.
He called on the Government to ensure
that the Navy is not stripped of its ships and its capability to help
maintain global security.
Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton Linda
Gilroy, who sits on the Commons Defence Select committee, backed the
First Sea Lord's comments: "If he doesn't do it, who will?
think the often expressed fears there's something of a sea blindness
towards the role of the Navy makes it extremely important he and others
should speak up in the months ahead."
Tory MP for South West
Devon Gary Streeter said: "The Navy is a force in its own right and
plays a significant supportive role to the other two forces. It's also
of crucial significance to us in the South West.
"We have got a
fight on our hands to make sure wherever the axe falls it doesn't fall
on the Navy. It's already been cut too far and too fast."
MP for Plymouth Devonport Alison Seabeck said she was not surprised at
Sir Mark's comments coming ahead of the mini-budget this November.
She added: "I share his concern about the Navy because of course for Plymouth there's work involved and jobs involved.
"It's interesting he saw the carrier programme as being one of the possible main targets for cuts.
think we have to wait and see. Both Linda Gilroy and myself have been
talking about this, and will be talking to ministers as we approach the
pre-Budget report, and will be making the case very strongly we think
the carrier programme should continue.
"Any cut could have a potentially serious knock-on effect for our city, and we will aim to ensure that doesn't happen."
Baroness Taylor said later that there were currently no plans to cancel the contract to build both carriers.