Labour will invest in more warplanes, Royal Navy ships and troops if we win power according to Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary. This is good news for Plymouth. After years of Tory cuts to the defence budget Labour plans to reverse these if we win power in 2020.
Since the Tories came to power they’ve cut HMS Ocean, scrapped the Type 22 frigates, plan to sell off the Royal Citadel and Stonehouse Barracks. They’ve sent redundancy notices to troops on deployment, scrapped the Harriers, cut the number of Type 26 frigates, cut the spec for the new Type 31 frigates, and now plan to buy foreign steel not British steel for future Naval ships.
The Tories locally have made much out of hitting the 2% NATO defence spending target but they’ve only managed to hit this by loading the defence budget with budgets previously excluded from the total, according to independent number-crunchers. When Labour was in power we hit the 2% defence spending target without loading in pensions from the DWP budget and other budgets to massage the figures. If the Tories struggle to hit 2% after their cuts how were they ever going to deliver the 3% Oliver Colvile promised in the General Election? They weren’t. Cynical deception designed to win votes only.
Labour’s announcement today is good news for Plymouth. I think Plymouth should be home to all the new Type 26 and the Type 31 frigates. We should be home to more Royal Marines and undertake more work in the dockyard and naval base. We should invest in submarine recycling to deal with the rusting sub hulls in the dockyard. We should stop the cuts to our amphibious forces and invest more in our forces personnel. So much of the defence debate focusses on equipment but we also need to talk about people. We need to recruit and retain more people and look after our veterans properly.
Now that Labour’s position on Trident is settled - we remain in favour of renewing Trident - we need to focus on the wider defence budget. This announcement by Nia Griffiths, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, is good news for Plymouth and good news for people, like me, who have been angry at the way the Tories talk up their defence credentials only to slash budgets, scrap ships and sack soldiers behind the scenes.
A growing defence budget, properly spent, supports Plymouth’s economy and puts food on the tables across our city. Well done Nia Griffith on this first outing about how she is getting to grips with Labour’s defence portfolio. With so much uncertainty in the world and with the Tory defence policy being so confused and detrimental to our national interest, Britain needs Labour holding the Tories to account on defence.