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Shadow Defence Minister raises concerns on future security of carriers in Portsmouth

Portsmouth MP and Shadow Defence Minister Stephen Morgan has raised concerns about the security of carriers based in Portsmouth, after it was confirmed in the Defence Command Paper earlier this week that UK frigates could be down to just nine vessels during the next decade.

The new Type 31 frigates confirmed in the command paper are set to be delayed by four years, meaning they will now arrive mid-2027.

However, the current Type 23 frigates that they will replace are set to be decommissioned at the beginning in 2023.

This will create a ‘capability holiday’ of three years and cut the number of UK frigates down to nine vessels, prompting concerns about the level of security for the aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, based at HMNB Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, with the addition of six Type 45 destroyers and the Royal Navy’s warship force, excluding auxiliaries, minesweepers, submarines and carriers, the Royal Navy’s surface combatant fleet will stand at just 15 hulls.

This would be a smaller surface navy than both Italy and France.

The Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, said,

“The delay in the new type 31 frigates being delivered raises serious concerns about how the Navy will be properly resourced to maintain security of our carriers.

“The modernisation of our Royal Navy is necessary, but it should not be coming at the expense of operational capabilities.

“Better procurement planning is needed in this transition period for our surface combat fleet, and the government must provide assurances that this will not limit our ability to defend Portsmouth’s carriers.

“Portsmouth has historic ties to the Royal Navy and it is important that it and HMNB Portsmouth gets the support they need over the coming years.”

Responding to the reported plans last year, Labour Peer and former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West told The Sun newspaper,

“Just 15 major service ships will put us into the second tier of the world’s navies”, and that “for a great nation like ours, just five [warships] on task is a national embarrassment and disgrace.” 

Mr Morgan criticised the government on Monday in response to its publication of the Defence Command Paper for cutting personnel numbers for budgetary purposes, not for strategic need.