Plymouth urged to fight for Royal Navy as Fox announces 'horror' spending review
POLITICIANS called on the city to back its armed forces as the Defence Secretary warned the "absolute mother of horrors of a spending review" is looming.
Dr Liam Fox made the comments while stating Britain's fleet of Trident nuclear submarines could be scaled back as the Ministry of Defence sought to make savings.
While local defence experts warned the Navy had already been cut back to the "bare bones", MPs pledged to fight Plymouth's case in the crucial months leading up to the review.
Tory MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Oliver Colvile said he would do his "level best" to campaign for the city's armed forces.
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"My take on this is that the spending review is going to be incredibly difficult," he said.
"Twenty-five thousand people in the locality are dependant on the defence industry. We need to make sure that were are singing that very loudly from the rooftops.
"The next couple of months are going to be vitally important to getting our cause across."
He called on MPs, Plymouth City Council, the university and other to rally together to support the cause.
He said: "We've got to make sure we are putting the best foot forward as far as Plymouth is concerned so that all the information goes forward to the Ministry of Defence."
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said she feared the review was being rushed through and mistakes could be made.
She said that, as changes to big contracts such as Trident would take years to make an impact, it may concentrate on more immediate cuts such as Army staffing numbers.
Ms Seabeck said: "I think Plymouth and Navy will take less of a hit than forces in other areas.
"But there's a lobbying job that we have to do and I would call on MPs and members of the city council to get together and form a strategic group that works to fight for Plymouth, to make sure there's no room for slippage.
"Plymouth as a city has got to get together and fight, and we've got to move quickly; the review is moving fast."
Dr Fox made clear in yesterday's speech his intention of ensuring the UK retained "a war-fighting edge" in the wake of this autumn's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
He said: "This is not just a spending review. This is a full-scale strategic review with the absolute mother of horrors of a spending review on its back.
"Therefore, this will be more difficult than some of our previous reviews, but it does offer an opportunity for us to reshape and to realign our security policy with our foreign policy and I think that is very long overdue."
Local defence experts said they hoped the Royal Navy would be trimmed rather than face sweeping cuts.
Iain Ballantyne, Plymouth-based editor of Warships International Fleet Review, said: "It would be a mistake, in terms of defence, if there were savage cuts across the whole the armed forces.
"The Royal Navy has halved in size since 1990/91. Of all the armed forces, it's the one that has lost the most. I'm not saying they will come out of it without any cuts but people would look at the Navy and see it's down to the bare bones already."
Naval expert Steve Bush, editor of the Liskeard-based Warship World magazine, has said: "You can't hide from the fact that we are an island nation — and if we haven't got a Navy that has got the capability of defending our resources and supply lines, then we can be held to ransom.
"Harsh decisions will be made but it's hard to think where, as the Navy has been drastically cut already in recent years."
Dr Fox's speech will be seen as a signal to Chancellor George Osborne that he will fight to preserve as much as possible of his department's £36billion budget in October's spending review, in which the MoD is expected to face cuts of 10 per cent or more.
Dr Fox said he was determined to ensure Britain would continue to have "robust and well-equipped armed forces capable of intervening abroad where necessary to protect our security and interests at home".