Luke Pollard

Labour & Co-operative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport

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Could Devonport's frigates ever be replaced?

A superb bit of investigation from the Guardian shows that the Type 26 frigates may be delayed or cancelled under new Tory cuts putting jobs in Plymouth at risk.

The older Type 22 and 23 frigates are planned to be replaced by a new global combat ship, the Type 26 frigate. But instead of replacing our current 13 frigates with 13 new frigates the Tories have already cut the number of new ships from 13 to 8 and now those remaining are under threat.

The UK's current 13 frigates are split between Devonport and Portsmouth and I've argued strongly that Devonport should be the base port for all the UK's frigates.

But as the Tories have cut the Navy and cut back the number of ships based at Devonport our Tory MPs have become very, very quiet on the matter.

In Plymouth, we have one MP on the defence select committee and one MP working as a ministerial bag carrier in the MOD and neither of them seem to be raising concerns about the cuts to Devonport's frigates. Why not?

I made defending dockyard jobs a key plank of my election campaign. My dad worked in the Royal navy and the dockyard and I know from my own personal experience how vital it is Devonport keeps defence work and base porting of these frigates.

The risk to the type 26 frigates from this Tory government is familiar. Despite promising not to the Tories have announced they will scrap HMS Ocean, sold off the Harriers without a replacement, scrapped frigates and destroyers, scrapped maritime patrol aircraft and cut the army. In an even more uncertain world these cuts are deeply worrying and Plymouth is once again losing out.

The debate about Trident often takes the headlines but the Tory cuts to the Royal Navy, the army and the air force is as big a concern.

Plymouth's Tory MPs seem to be asleep at the wheel. I want to see them raising merry hell about the delays to the new Type 26 frigates. It is bad enough that theyve sat on their hands as the Government cut the number of frigates from 13 to 8 but any further delays will severely affect jobs - not only in shipbuilding on the Clyde - but in Devonport. Sadly, hedgehogs and self-promotion often seem to be higher priorities for our local Tory MPs. Plymouth deserves better and our jobs depend on it.


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