A former Defence Secretary has warned that withdrawing the Albion class would ‘end British amphibious capability’.

Lord Hutton was speaking during a debate on British defence forces in the House of Lords where he said:

His comments come amid reports that the Royal Marines could be cut and amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, taken out of service.

“I am absolutely opposed to the United Kingdom acting unilaterally—for example, by announcing the end of our effective amphibious capability. I do not believe that the QE2 class carriers—they are brilliant ships and I am proud to see them serving in the Royal Navy—have the equivalent capability. Neither do the Bay class ships. They are incapable of supporting and mounting large-scale amphibious operations with the fighting vehicles that the Army now has.

Our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan led us, rightly, to conclude that they needed to be better protected: they needed to be stronger, heavier vehicles. We need “Bulwark” and “Albion” to retain that capability.

So we must tread pretty carefully. I am all in favour of the defence industry co-operating with government in the efficiency review: I think they should. I am certainly in favour of our thinking carefully about how we use the overseas aid and defence budgets together to secure greater security results.

But it is hard to avoid the obvious conclusion that we will need to spend more now to preserve UK effective capabilities. The painful lesson from history is that spending less on defence does not make us more secure; it does not make those threats go away, it just makes us less able to deal with them.”

40 COMMENTS

  1. Obviously!- if you withdraw and sell off your amphibious ships at rock bottom discount prices clearly we will loose our ability as a nation to conduct an amphibious assault- this would relegate the UK to a 2nd tier military power- something I would think we are close too now really.
    The government need to wake up!- if we cannot afford properly proportioned and resourced national defence forces and capabilities stop sending immediately £13 billion a year abroad as foreign aid.
    Close tax loops outlined in the paradise papers
    Put up taxes- I would happily pay 3-5p more in every £ on income tax if we had public services like defence that were properly resourced.

  2. What a sick joke this all is … 2015 SDSR “lessons learnt” replacing capabilities lost in the 2010 review, turning the TA into a properly deployable reserve, lots of good news, admittedly among the bad.

    No fat left to cut, well looks like the lean is going to, I have already contacted my MP and told them my thoughts on this ( I strongly suggest we all do) . If they do this, I will never vote Tory again.

    What a shambles of a political landscape we have, on one side a useless 1980’s style, left wing Michael Foot Labour party, who’s only answer to any issue is massive additional borrowing, he’s like a teenager let loose with a credit card.

    On the other, a 1970’s style weak Ted Heath style Tory party, floundering from one crisis to the next.

    Both bloody useless….

    We need a new party…

      • Defence is never a vote winner, most Brits haven’t a clue about the country’s defence forces, they just assume we have enough of everything. As long as the NHS and education are struggling to make budgets work, defence issues will never get the right exposure. Soft targets like the Albion Class, will not get the general public excited if they are struck off, they simply lack the political gravitas.

        Post-Brexit Britain defence is not currently on the government’s lists of major concerns going forward, if the Treasury wants to kill off programmes or in this case, warships, then there has never been a better time to do it. In reality, no one is on the bridge looking out for the Royal Navy’s interests in Whitehall at this time, so everything is up for grabs.

  3. Just read an article in the Telegraph (not my paper!) that says the MOD has been refused more money by the Treasury in favour of additional spending on cyber threats.

    Cuts are coming, its just a matter of where they fall. F35 numbers are an obvious choice as they would have a fairly large impact and I believe we would be fine with a number in the 90s if all the Typhoons are retained.

    Beyond that I am starting to fear the worst for the army and RN.

    • We could survive on a cut in F35 numbers, it would hurt our carrier strike capacity in the short term but we could live with it, and potentially order more in the future when our funds are less shaky. However cutting army manpower, scrapping our main amphibious capacity and slowing down modernization programs and vehicle orders would be a cut we would never recover from. It would be nearly as bad as the 2010 review, which the 2015 tried to correct and failed to do.

    • Lets just wait and see on that Telegraph article.

      The article mounted an attack on the NSA saying he wants to screw over the MoD.
      No idea where they would get their evidence for that.
      Looking at his background he served with NATO in Afghanistan with F&CO and held other high ranking posts so I’d imagine he either is or has Spook all over him.

      In which case budget for intelligence agencies protected or enhanced, quite right too.

  4. Sometimes these ideas are run up the flagpole with the deliberate intention of causing uproar, thus protecting the asset.

    Some years ago there was a rumoured proposal to scrap the Davis escape system for submarines. It was countered by one submarines officer, then sailing a desk in Whitehall. He headed it off by writing out an order scrapping the system, and then taking it around all the political and civilian types asking them to sign the order. He explained how vitally important the Davis apparatus was to the morale of the submariners, and the effects it would have on recruitment. None of the mandarins dared to take the responsibility of signing the order, and the system was reprieved. The officer was sacked, of course. Such are the perils of Whitehall.

    Perhaps this is the same process at work today. A policy has been proposed, and uproar has ensued. The result is the protection of the asset for a number of years to come.

    • Even if the big assets are protected. We can still expect the cuts to come from else ware, most likely under the skin where less visible such as decreased fleet numbers, less training ect. Which is already happening.

  5. How about move the Bays and Argos under the Foreign aid Budget and have them deliver Humanitarian aid in their primary role and backup if required.

    This is entirely in keeping with what the foreign aid budget can spend money on and for me is a much better use of the money and if need be a better decision.

    I am starting to despise our political class – they are a bit like the family member who works ceaselessly for charity whilst ignoring their parents own needs….

    Time to take care of the home front – the world can wait a year or two…. I mean its not as if they actually like us is it…

  6. If there is a choice.

    Remove amphibs, 12,000 army,

    or reduce F35 and T26 orders, and maybe order some cheaper stuff to make up the balance.

    I choose the later.

    UK needs to keep what mass it has.

    But as HMG always favour fat cat industry and big ticket programmes over forces numbers I’m not confident.

  7. Its all about tax if the country needs all these things someone (us the public) has to pay for them. No Government to the best of my recollection has ever come out and said we think the country needs strong defence therefore it has to be paid for by you the public because we the Government don’t have money of our own.

    However no Government I recall has said this. They all claim that we can have everything without paying for it, the magic low tax economy.

    Would the public if told the truth pay extra, I don’t know. The only way we will ever know is if a party at an election say’s this. If they get elected then we will know. If not decline, not just in defence will continue.

  8. I know im going to be hammered for saying this BUT
    A warship takes about 3 years to build
    An aircraft takes a fairly long time (i have no idea)
    A soldier takes how long to train ?
    Sorry but think what is easier to replace
    I await your verbal abuse but whats easier in all honesty
    And im from a family who father was in the army from 36/53 and a Dunkirk and D Day veteran let alone the desert

    • at this point for the military there should be 0 cuts.

      0.

      there is nothing left to remove that does not seriously damage whichever arm’s ability to fight.

      It’s insanity.

    • Of the 3 services the Army is the one which should bear the brunt of the cuts. Further reductions might force a more coherent structure and equipment plan which as you say could be built on later.

      • I agree, the army has not borne the burnt of cuts compared to the Navy due to the recent campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan . Time to invest in a Royal Navy with global reach fit for the 21st century

    • Not so much the time it takes to build (hell worse comes to worse we could bye a surplus one). Its about the time it takes to train and build up a force. Besides in this day and age if we need something we need it there and then.

  9. Once again the Party who claim to be the Party of defence, will neuter our capability, as with the Cancellation of Nimrod . the scrapping of our thro the deck Carriers and with it the Sea Harriers,reduction of the manpower in the Services , and so on . this lousy Government will betray the Nation. The spurious quoting of the Last and current defence Secs of our” ever increasing defence spend” takes the breath away. The current DS is a new boy who will do as he,s told by Hammond. And now the Government says there is no decision until after Christmas , Have a nice one boys, try o forget the chop that may be coming. Its a disgrace

  10. Mark Sedwill, the diplomat conducting the review served in Afghanistan. One can only guess his opinion of the value of expensive military intervention in that part of the world. These cuts are a defining moment for Britain. We are finally having to come to terms with the end empire thinking aka by some as becoming a second rank military power. I see the Russians are saying this morning that a British mine sank the San Juan. Scurrilous lies but a sign that the ( cyber) hyenas are closing in on the carcass.
    Albion and Bulwark are emblematic of empire, of expeditionary identity and psychology. Losing 1000 RM would be a serious blow to the national psyche. To justify retaining the amphibs we need to make out a 21st century diplomatic and strategic case, based on being their being a contribution to international efforts.
    @ Daniele. Agree. If deep defence cuts have to be made I would prefer to see cuts to army numbers, F-35 numbers, Type 26 numbers. Plus continued bearing down on rationalisation and housekeeping of bases and equipment. E.g. Until carrier force becomes a reality why not gift 2 Type 23 to Chile, get them to pay for the mid life upgrades, replace them with Forth and Medway and keep the batch 1 Rivers ( which do actually leave port)?

    • Paul.

      Just to clarify. My suggestion on army numbers came with a condition, being that some if the loss is made up with increases elsewhere, say lose 1000 infantry but gain 1000 sailors.

      Any cuts to the army cannot include combat service or combat service support, which has been cut time and again to preserve historic cap badges.

      The only extra mass the army now has is in infantry battalions.

  11. The MOD should just say no. Run up a budget deficit and state they will not allow any further cuts.
    There is nothing left to cut that will not impact massively on our ability to project power or conduct military operations.
    We can afford as a nation a decent armed forces…i mean if France can, we can. We all just need to accept there are choices to be made.
    1) we all pay more income tax 3-5p more per pound
    2) the government close tax loopholes as outlined in the paradise papers
    3) we do not pay the Brexit divorce bill or we do not leave the EU, we have to do one or the other, there is no middle ground.
    4) put back up corporation tax. I am not convinced big business will move to Luxembourg or Ireland if we did that. Why would they want to?
    Choices you see. There is another way then cuts and that is get the revenue and spend it on public services. Sadly most comments on her are right. People know zero on defence matters and assume the British lion is alive and well and ready to fight. When in reality it has had its claws clipped, teeth pulled out, mane cut off and back legs tied together.

  12. This was in the Daily Independent on-line and is very telling!

    Government set for climbdown over defence cuts in face of growing Tory backlash – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/liam-fox-tobias-ellwood-defence-cuts-ministry-of-defence-tories-a8077006.html

    I have written to my MP reminding him that the first duty of government is to defend the country and its people but I really don’t trust ANY politicians or governments or political parties and haven’t voted for a long time. None of them appeal to me.

  13. If these continual cuts in the defence spending continue our armed forces will reach a point were our position in NATO will be less tenable and politically things such as our UN security council seat under threat as wells any influence we have with the United States and dialog with China and Russia as these countries only respect military strength.

  14. I can’t believe what has been written here. 28 posts all getting very emotional and condemning everyone from the PM to No 10’s cat and all based on what exactly?
    Supposition, Rumour and people adding 2 + 2 and making 6 1/2.

    Can we please keep a sense of proportion and react to REAL news when it happens??

  15. I sometimes think that the general public just do not realise how badly depleted our Royal Navy has become, and worse, the majority of the population probably couldn’t care less about it either. The Royal Navy’s strength is now at a point where in my opinion the service is literally no longer capable of adequately fulfilling the requirements of NATO. Now the Government plan to reduce by half, the Minehunter strength in the Gulf. Rumours of two more Type 23s being sold? America must be hopping mad at this abdication of responsibility and who can blame them?!

    This is hard to stomach, but from 1997 to 2010, the Labour Government decommissioned HM Submarines Trafalgar, Sovereign, Superb, Spartan, Splendid, HM Ships Birmingham, Glasgow, Newcastle, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Nottingham, Norfolk, Grafton, Marlborough, London, Coventry, Sheffield, Boxer, Brave, Beaver, Bicester, Berkeley, Sandown, Inverness, Bridport, Leeds Castle, Dumbarton Castle, Herald, Beagle, Bulldog, Roebuck, RFA’s Brambleleaf, Oakleaf, Olwen, Olna, HMS Invincible in 2005, and cut the Type 45 numbers from twelve to six.

    Then in 2010, a change of Government and two more Defence Reviews, (SDSR 2010 and SDSR 2015), from which followed unbelievably, the removal from service of HM Ships Ark Royal, Illustrious, Liverpool, Manchester, Edinburgh, Gloucester, York, Cornwall, Chatham, Campbeltown, Cumberland, Cottesmore, Dulverton, Severn, HM Submarines Turbulent, Torbay, Tireless, Sceptre, RFA’s Largs Bay, Fort George, Black Rover, Gold Rover, Grey Rover, Bayleaf, Orangeleaf, and Diligence. HM Ships Quorn, Atherstone and Gleaner are finishing up in December, HMS Ocean is going in the new year, and very possibly the way things are going, HM Ships Albion and Bulwark as well. If this turns out to be true, it would wipe out the Amphibious capability of the Royal Navy at a single stroke, leaving only four MOD chartered civilian ships to call forward to back up the three Bay Class in an emergency, MV’s Hurst Point, Hartland Point, Eddystone and Anvil Point. Despite the very welcome arrival of the Queen Elizabeth Class and the start of construction of the Type 26 Class Frigate, it does not change the fact that the Royal Navy is nevertheless in a very very precarious state indeed. The Service is right now down to the bare bones in terms of operational effectiveness and sustainability going forward and this cannot be allowed to continue. I shudder to think what the next Defence Review is going to bring.

    In the twenty years since 1997, we have lost Eight Nuclear Hunter Killer Submarines, all Three Invincible Class Carriers, Twelve Destroyers, Thirteen Frigates, and numerous other Minehunters, Survey Ships, OPVs and RFAs, all of them vital. Admiral of the Fleet Earl Beattie once uttered those famous words, “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today” … If he was here now and he could see what was going on, he would surely change the word ‘Ships’, to Government… Rant over. ⚓

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