The Devonport Task Group has welcomed news that its campaigning has helped secure the baseporting of the Royal Navy’s new generation frigates in Plymouth and saved the city’s amphibious assault ships from defence cuts.
The Fly the Flag for Devonport Campaign, run in partnership with The Herald, was launched in December last year to fight the threat of HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark being axed under defence cuts.
It also called for all eight of the new Type 26 frigates to be based in Devonport and lobbied against a reduction in number of Royal Marines in the city.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has today (8 October) confirmed that the new Type 26 frigates will be based in Devonport. The anti-submarine ‘global combat’ warships will enter service in the 2020s, replacing the Type 23 frigates.
He also announced on 30 September that HMS Albion and Bulwark would be retained.
Campaigning and lobbying on all these issues has been spearheaded by the Devonport Task Group, which comprises MPs, the leader and shadow leader of Plymouth City Council and senior representatives from the defence industry, dockyard trade unions, business community and education and skills sector.
Councillor Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council and chair of the Task Group, welcomed the news but said the city needs to keep pressure on the Government and MOD to ensure continued investment in the naval base and dockyard.
Councillor Evans said: “The news that our campaign to secure the baseporting of the Type 26s in Devonport has been successful is very welcome and we need to say a big thank you to all the people in Plymouth who supported it.
“The baseporting of the future generation of frigates in Devonport and securing the amphibious assault ships here are very important issues not just for Plymouth’s economy and for our servicemen and women and their families, but for defence in the UK as whole. It’s just unfortunate that these decisions were not made earlier to avoid unnecessary stress and worry.
“While these announcements are very welcome, we need to be vigilant in case there are creeping cuts elsewhere that could impact on Devonport. There is already speculation that two Type 23 frigates could be retired early, which could have an impact on the city.
“We also need to know what the plans for the Type 31 frigates are and to be reassured that there are no plans to reduce the numbers of Royal Marines. We also need to understand where the MoD are planning to locate in the city once they vacate Stonehouse barracks and what the plans are for this important site.
Shadow leader Ian Bowyer, who chaired the Task Group up until last May, said: “This is great news for Plymouth, for the Naval Base and Dockyard and for jobs and investment in the city. We have campaigned hard on these issues and this is the result we wanted. We fought for HMS Bulwark and HMS Albion and they’ve now been secured and we fought to bring all the Type 26s here, which we have now also secured. We now need to keep the pressure up to secure the Royal Marines in the city.
“The Naval Base and Dockyard play a very significant role in the UK’s defence and we will carry on working together to ensure they continue to do so in the future.”