Opposition Day debate - Future of the Royal Navy
With the Opposition Day debate in the Commons today on the future of the navy, no doubt the First Sea Lord's recent comments will be fresh in the minds of MPs. Naval shipbuilding requires planning and long-termism beyond the imagination of most politicians; during the last war, American shipyards astonished the world by turning out Liberty Ships in an average of 42 days, but in the 21st century it takes about six years to build a destroyer. Plus the design and procurement period.
We have no strategic food stocks in this country. We are dependent on imports for around half our food. The impact of a 'just in time' global trade dependency were exemplified by the grounding of the Napoli; the non-arrival of the parts she carried for Volkswagen in South Africa caused production there to shut down. The RAND institute has documented the impact of a single major terrorist incident at one of the world's key node ports; a log jam of goods, a freezing of shipping movements and a global loss of confidence in the shipping market.
BAE systems has just taken on a further 120 apprentices at its two Glasgow shipyards, bringing the total to 472 since 2003 in what is being hailed as a critical revival of the UK's shipbuilding skills base. These are the young men and women who will build the planned new carriers.
The Chancellor has poured a Tsunami of cash at health and education in the hope of short-term political gains, gains that appear more elusive and ephemeral with every day. Our welfare budget is out of control - again Brown's short-term strategy to lock voters into welfare dependency. Just for once let this government look beyond its own interests and look instead to those of the nation. Investment in our Navy is a long term decision and will gain the government few votes in this term except on the Clyde, but such investment is critical for us all.