The announcement on Monday that the new generation of frigates – Type 26’s – will all be base-ported at HM Naval Base Devonport is very significant. Not many years ago there were serious doubts over the future of our naval base, but that has all been swept away. Devonport naval base has a gloriousfuture.
This is important news for our regional economy. The dockyard and naval base employ thousands of local people directly on good salaries and generate work for thousands more indirectly in the Plymouth travel to work area. Babcock who run the dockyard have a strong order book and are about to invest close to a billion pounds in upgrading one of their dry docks to improve their capability for future refit work. This busy dynamo in the heart of Plymouth is the engine room of our local economy and will continue to be so for years to come.
There are wider implications of the recent announcement. After many years of cuts, the government is investing in our armed forces once again. This reflects an increasingly dangerous world and also a new confidence in a post- Brexit global Britain. The defence budget is increasing by a billion pounds a year and must now be at least 2% of GDP. The new Type 26’s appear to be well designed and already several friendly countries have put in orders for them. We should never be embarrassed about the fact that Britain is good at defence, has a global role and is a force for good around the world. It is part of our role in the world and we simply have to pay the price tag for that.
It is sad that we should still need to invest in weapons of warfare. It would be great to think that as humans develop we could live together in peace and harmony. But that is simply not the case. Every century for the past two thousand years has seen major global conflicts. There is sadly no reason to suppose that this one will be any different. Russia, Iran, China, North Korea, the Middle East…who knows when the next spark will ignite. Russia in particular appears to respect only strength.
So we must keep our defences up, at the same time working hard for peace, as we do with our diplomatic corps and international development programmes. War is a terrible thing and the best way to prevent it is to stay strong.