The Portsmouth News has launched its ‘Hands of our Navy’ campaign, highlighting the danger of cutting the Royal Navy in the upcoming Strategic Defence and Security Review. The paper us running a series of articles highlighting the role of the Navy, and are planning to deliver an open letter to 10 Downing Street soon.
Here are the News’s ten reasons for the need to save the Royal Navy from deep cuts, in no particular order:
Protecting trade: Most of the oil used by the UK arrives by sea and 92 per cent of global trade passes through just nine narrow ‘choke points’ where it is especially easy for a nation, pirates or even a terrorist group to attack shipping. Global maritime trade relies on the free and lawful use of the sea. Warships protect the ships that carry the food you eat, the things you buy and the fuel you need. We need a strong Royal Navy to protect our way of life.
Helping in the fight against terrorists and piracy: The Royal Navy is part of the complex array of forces trying to combat global terrorism. Whether contributing personnel, and aircraft to Afghanistan, or conducting maritime search of suspect vessels, the navy helps police the seas and disrupt terrorist operations. The navy needs more ships, not less, to patrol areas used by terrorist traffic and dominated by the threat of piracy.
The Royal Navy deterrent: The presence of a warship can send a powerful message of deterrence without a shot being fired. When the Royal Navy turned up in Sierra Leone in 2000 to help UN forces deal with a bloody civil war, a ceasefire was called. This was no coincidence. The Royal Navy’s impact is as powerful today as it ever has.
The last time a government considered deep navy cuts, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands. Cutting the navy sends a message of weakness to the world.
Preserving Britain’s global political role: Royal Navy ships are a key component in projecting Britain’s influence. Visiting navy vessels promote relationships with friendly and neutral nations around the world. The size and ability of the navy is a significant factor in how much influence we have over global politics and, in particular, the actions of the United States. A smaller fleet equals a smaller role in the world.
Disrupting the flow of illegal drugs: The Royal Navy regularly patrols in the Caribbean region and has made seizures of millions of pounds worth of drugs grown in South America intended for Europe. The navy has also seized drugs from suspect vessels across the world’s oceans. Money from the sale of drugs is a source of funds for terrorism and criminal empires. We must not give in to drug lords by downsizing the navy.
Supplying humanitarian aid and helping with disaster relief around the world: Every year, Royal Navy warships are involved in providing aid, comfort and relief of nations that have suffered natural disasters. In the Caribbean where islands are regularly devastated, navy ships have often been the first on the scene providing help to the local authorities. It would be criminal if Britain could no longer provide immediate support to help people in their hour of need.
Training and employing people: The Royal Navy directly employs approximately 35,000 people and is key in securing the jobs of thousands of more people who support the navy. Ex-forces personnel are generally a valuable labour resource for the economy. A lack of investment in the service is leading to a vicious circle as experienced people resign, tired of too much time away from home serving on under-manned ships. A further reduction in the number of sailors could harm Britain’s future as a maritime nation.
Supporting manufacturing, industry, research and science: Designing, building and maintaining the vessels and equipment needed by the Royal Navy employs thousands of people in the UK and helps maintain cutting edge industrial skills of benefit to the economy as a whole. The nation would be poorer without shipbuilding.
Protecting UK waters and the fish stocks: Fish are an important part of our diet and the fishing industry is a mainstay of many small ports around UK. Protecting fish stocks from over-fishing, preventing plunder by foreign vessels and enforcing fish quotas and regulations is actually the oldest task performed by the Royal Navy. We need to protect UK waters.
Search and rescue: Royal Navy aircraft are on standby to perform rescue missions around the UK 24 hours a day. Many Royal Navy aircrew have received bravery awards. Many mariners, climbers and holidaymakers owe their lives to the Royal Navy.
Its hard to argue with any of those. The only thing is, I’m really not sure whether strategy comes into it, I’m beginning to think that these cuts will be a case of the Tresury-axe falling, and then picking up the pieces afterwards. Of course, in a sensible world, we would look at what we do and how much it costs. Then, we would look at what we do that we can afford to not do, and what we can afford to scale back with. Then of course you identify the ‘alamo’ tasks which we absolutely MUST do. But then, isn’t defence the alomo of all governments?
I applaud any efforts to highlight British defence, especially in an area where many of us are ‘seablind’. The only problem is, that Defence nowadays is exactly that – joined up Defence, and not just any single service. Any debates need to take account of the fact that there are three services, and it is no good lobbying fiercely for one and making no comments about the other services at all. If one service escapes cuts, the others might pay – and that might not be so good for the bigger picture.
As I have already highlighted, the SDSR is clearly a structure-less, Treasury-led review, looking for cuts and to hell with the Defence and Security aspects. I’m not sure what good the lobbying will do, with a Government that is so keen to find cuts and is showing itself to be very inept when it comes to Defence.
All the same, ANY debate about defence has to be a good thing – for too long Defence has been a non-issue in politics and society at large. Think Defence, Save the Royal Navy, The Phoenix Think Tank and The UK National Defence Association all do sterling work to stimulate debate. I just wish that the passion that people have for showing thanks for our servicemen and for raising money for them would transmit over to the bigger issues too.
- Navy to lose new carrier (thesun.co.uk)