£16.5bn for defence could help Devon industries

Laura White
Laura White
Devonport docks, Plymouth © David Smith

The Prime Minister has announced the biggest investment in the UK’s Armed Forces since the end of the Cold War, confirming an injection of £16.5 billion over four years.

Combined with the manifesto commitment of a 0.5% uplift, the total increase for defence is a substantial £24.1 billion.

The investment will underpin the revitalisation of shipbuilding, funding a significant expansion of Royal Navy vessels to create the biggest surface fleet of modern warships in Europe, sparking good news for Devon.

John Wood, Chief Executive of Harland and Wolff Appledore in North Devon, said it was ready to deliver ‘on time and on budget’ ambitions for the UK’s defence capability with plans to build at least 13 additional ships to bolster the fleet.

And the shipyard is well in the running for the Fleet Solid Support Warship programme worth around £1.5 billion.

Mr Wood said: “We saw the commitment this Government and this Prime Minister has to reviving proper British shipbuilding when he visited our Appledore shipyard in August. We look forward to working with Government in order to secure the future of our two shipyards, become the centre of excellence for renewable energy fabrication in the UK and build a portfolio of profitable domestic and export-oriented contracts.”

The Prime Minister mentioned Appledore specifically when announcing: “If there is one policy that strengthens the UK in every possible sense, it is building more ships for the Royal Navy.

‘This will spur a renaissance of British ship building across the UK; in Glasgow, and Rosyth, Belfast, and Appledore and Birkenhead, guaranteeing jobs and illuminating the benefits of the union in the white light of the arc
welder’s torch.”

On the other side of Devon, Plymouth Moor View MP and Government Defence Minister Johnny Mercer said the announcement was possibly one of the most ‘significant’ for decades for Plymouth amid the announcement that billions will be ploughed into the future of the military.

He said: “It  was a key driver for me getting into politics as everybody knows. My honest assessment, if you look at the 3 Commando Brigade, is that this is a revolution in the development of the military in Plymouth.

‘What this really means is that the money that’s going into infrastructure, the money that’s going into improving lives, the money that’s going into improving the type of kit and equipment that’s going to be used, means it’s a really significant day for servicemen and women across all three services in Plymouth.

‘I’m delighted. Personally, I came into politics to try and reset this country’s relationship with her military. Five years down the line we’ve got the UK’s first office for veteran affairs, we have the largest defence settlement for 30 years and achieving strategic objectives. The majority of my time is spent on local issues, and rightly so. Achieving strategic objectives in government is very difficult, and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done.”

Whilst most of the specifics have yet to be thrashed out, the extra cash will enable more frigates to be added to the fleet. Specifically, it will fund eight Type 26 and five Type 31 frigates.

Plymouth won a campaign to retain all the Type 26s whilst it continues to haggle with the Government over the future home of the new Type 31s.

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