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I cannot imagine a Plymouth without the Dockyard and I will fight for it

January 15, 20240

HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in Western Europe, is the jewel in Plymouth’s crown. Occupying 650 acres, the Dockyard hugs the West of Plymouth with 15 dry docks, four miles of waterfront, 25 tidal berths and five basins. Since 1691, it has formed the backdrop to our City’s rich seafaring history. I for one cannot imagine a Plymouth without the Dockyard. Surviving the Plymouth Blitz and, in more recent history, an uncertain economic future and hungry land developers, it has proved incredibly resilient. Hard-earned investment has seen the Dockyard bounce back from when the Office for Nuclear Regulation placed it under special measures in 2013. 

 

When everyone said that it was impossible to overturn a generation of decline at Devonport, I won the contract to port-base the new, Clyde-built Type 26 frigates at the Dockyard. I will not take no for an answer or, as a proud champion of Plymouth, let the naysayers talk down our City. I wrote to the Prime Minister back in 2018 and campaigned rigorously to ensure that all eight of these world-class vessels would be based right here in Plymouth. 

 

The Type 26 will replace the eight current Type 23 anti-submarine warfare frigates based at Devonport, ensuring that a strong naval presence remains at the Plymouth dockyard. The first three Type 26 Global Combat Ships will enter service before 2030, followed by a further five, providing a strong deterrent against Russian submarine activity in the Atlantic. Undertaking three core roles – war fighting, maritime security and international engagement – they will be the “workhorse” of the Royal Navy fleet. 

  

Devonport is the Royal Navy’s main site for nuclear submarine maintenance. Last November, Babcock signed a £750m contract with the MoD’s Submarine Delivery Agency to deliver future submarine capability. I am fortunate to have had a close working relationship with Babcock since being elected and welcome this huge investment into Plymouth. The programme will safeguard telecommunication cables and pipelines and draw an additional 1,000 jobs into our City. 

 

Devonport’s contribution to our local economy cannot be overstated, employing 2,500 service personnel and civilians, supporting roughly 400 local businesses and generating around ten percent of our City’s income. Every week I meet with constituents, businesses and organisations which benefit from the Dockyard’s economic pull. The Type 26 Frigate and £750m submarine contract are huge wins for our City, helping to secure our Dockyard for another generation of Plymothians. 

 

However, I am alive to the challenges that it has faced in keeping pace with the evolving requirements of the Royal Navy. Like many, I was alarmed by reports last September that the Royal Navy had no submarines at sea. I am confident that the £2bn overhaul of Devonport’s facilities, which includes Kier BAM Joint Venture’s refurbishment of 10 Dock, will help fix the infrastructure issues and ensure that our nuclear deterrent is not compromised. It goes without saying, given the precarious state of international security, that this is not a mistake that we can be seen to make twice. 

 

I will continue to fight for Plymouth to get its fair share every day that I am honoured to serve you in Westminster. I believe that my record of delivery for Devonport proves that. Having proudly served for Plymouth-based 29 Commando Royal Artillery, I understand first-hand what Plymouth’s strong military ties mean both economically and culturally to our City; I will not stand still. 

 

If you would like to raise any concerns about HMNB Devonport, please contact me via johnny@johnnyforplymouth.co.uk or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels. Furthermore, if you would like to be notified about what I am doing here in Plymouth, including when I next write an op-ed for the Herald, please sign up to my mailing list here.

Luke Jones

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