Tories U-turn on pledge as Royal Navy jobs axed

The crew of HMS Illustrious stand at ease during the naming ceremony for the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth in Fife last year. Picture: Getty
The crew of HMS Illustrious stand at ease during the naming ceremony for the aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth at Rosyth in Fife last year. Picture: Getty
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THE UK government has admitted that it will cut the number of Royal Navy personnel despite the Tories promising in their manifesto to maintain current manpower.

The decision has been attacked by the SNP who has also raised concerns that the move could impact on new Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde.

But the Ministry of Defence has insisted it was part of existing plans to reduce the size of the regular forces.

In a written answer, the new armed forces minister Penny Mordaunt, who herself represents a Royal Navy base within the Portsmouth North constituency, said the strength of the Royal Navy is to be cut by 400 by April 2018.

It will bring the current requirement of 30,300 down to 29,900. While the number is relatively small, the decision comes despite election promises made by the Conservative.

In their manifesto, the Tories said: “We will maintain the size of the regular armed services and not reduce the army to below 82,000.”

SNP shadow defence secretary Brendan O’Hara MP suggested that the cuts – from already record low levels for the Royal Navy – could place a question mark over plans to have two full crews for each of the new Type-26 frigates.

The final contract for the frigates to be built on the Clyde has still not been signed between the government and BAe, with the deadline of the end of last year already missed.

Mr O’Hara said: “Less than a week into government and the Tories have already broken their manifesto promise to maintain service personnel numbers. They plan to cut 400 Royal Navy jobs – which is the equivalent of over two full crews for a frigate.

“This can only be bad news for Scotland, which already has a historic record low of service personnel based there. It also suggests yet more cuts to the fleet, which has to be seen in the context of future Type-26 orders.

“It’s clear that the Tories are picking up where they left off, by breaking promises on defence and slashing the conventional defence budget.”

But an MoD spokesman said: “This is part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010, so nothing new and nothing to do with anything that’s happened since the election.”

The written answer came shortly after Chancellor George Osborne announced further cuts to departmental budgets of 
3 per cent outside protected areas of international aid, health and schools.

The reduction means that the Ministry of Defence will have to find £500 million more in savings, which has raised fears over further cuts to the armed forces. In the Queen’s Speech, the Tories also announced that they would launch another strategic defence and security review which opposition parties have suggested could herald another round of cuts to the UK’s defences.

While the Tories have promised to protect defence equipment expenditure, the review is also likely to question the future of military bases including at Rosyth, Fort George near Inverness, Kinloss in Moray and Redford Barracks in Edinburgh.

Concerns have also been raised that attempts to recruit reservists to fill in the gaps left by the reduction in regulars have not been on target.

Last year experts commissioned by the MoD warned there had been “an extremely poor start” in recruitment and the deadline of having new personnel trained by 2018 would not be met.