Plymouth City Council leader Ian Bowyer has welcomed a Commons select committee report which concludes that the disposal of Devonport-based amphibious assault ships and reductions in the Royal Marines would be “totally at odds with strategic reality”.
In its report, Sunset for the Royal Marines?, the Defence Committee warns that further reductions in the Royal Marines and the disposal of would be ‘militarily illiterate’.
It urges the Government to use the new Modernising Defence Programme (MDP) recently announced by the Defence Secretary to cancel the leaked plans for cuts to the ships and Marines that were being considered as part the National Security Capability Review (NSCR).
Plymouth City Council submitted evidence to the Defence Committee as it investigated the potential impact of leaked plans, which include the disposal of the amphibious ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark despite them being due to be in service until the 2030s.
The Council has been campaigning to protect the ships and Royal Marines following a cross-party Council motion last October.
Evidence from a Council commissioned report into the economic value of the ships to Plymouth and the rest of South West is referenced in the Select Committee’s report, which says the two amphibious assault ships are essential for landing personnel, heavy equipment and supplies.
It says: “Disposing of our amphibious capability would not only put the interests of this country at serious risk, but would also be a drastic waste of tailor-made vessels, expensively refitted for another 15 years’ use, and of a military specialism that has been fostered across all three Services.”
It continues: “Along with the Royal Marines, the Albion class ships lie at the heart of UK amphibious capability. There is no substitute for these dedicated and sophisticated platforms. Attempts to create stop-gap solutions, with vessels that are not designed for the purpose, will result in the assumption of wholly unacceptable levels of operational risk.”
Councillor Bowyer said: “This report is very welcome as it gathers compelling evidence from a range of sources and makes clear recommendations. It is also very timely given the recent announcement that defence capability will be reviewed under the Modernising Defence Programme.
“It is clear that the UK simply cannot afford to lose the defence capability provided by the amphibious assault ships and the Royal Marines. While other countries are investing in this capability, it would be make absolutely no sense to reduce ours.
“Plymouth has a long and proud tradition of providing this capability and is without doubt best placed to continue to do so for many years to come. We will be relentless in our campaigning as city to ensure Devonport can continue to play this important role in the future.”