Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 7 May 2009


Our naval base has been making the news again this week. I managed to secure a debate at Westminster to try and wrench some more clarity from the government about their plans for its future. It was as long ago as July 2007 that they announced the outcome of the naval base review – all three bases would remain open, but each would have to suffer cuts - and since then we have been kept hanging on wondering what that means for us. We are still waiting.

It matters because one in ten jobs locally is directly or indirectly generated by the dockyard and naval base. It matters because there are 4000 people currently employed in the naval base (and 3500 in the yard). It matters because each ship and submarine base-ported here represents millions of pounds in income and spending in our city by those mariners and their families and if the ships are moved elsewhere that spending will disappear.

A minister saying that “Devonport has a secure future” is utterly meaningless. It does not distinguish between the yard and the base and it gives no specifics on jobs or future scale.

Of course the government – any government – must think first about the right thing for the country. But the magnificent years of service since 1588 must count for something.

What outcome do we want? We want the frigates to stay and to be part of Plymouth’s future. We want the submarines to stay. With a Scottish Nationalist government in Scotland, how sensible is it to place all of our nuclear submarine fleet – including our deterrent - at Faslane?

If these decisions go against us we want proper compensation for the local economy including help in utilising the redundant parts of the naval base for commercial purposes, which will require substantial investment to be of any use at all.

Above all we need certainty so the city can plan. In the summer of 2007 we were told that the MOD was working out the specific impact for each of the three naval bases. Since then the defence budget has come under even greater pressure and the government has run out of money. But we are still waiting for the details of the review. The uncertainty is crippling for city leaders and the business community.

Many of us fear that behind the scenes the decisions are already taken, but there is (as ever) raw politics at work.

posted by Gary @ 08:19