CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE TO THE NAVY AS THREATS PROLIFERATE'

Daily Telegraph – 8 January 2007

[Your idiosyncratic commentator] Lewis Page may be content that scrapped or mothballed frigates and destroyers "will be no great loss to anyone'' (Comment, January 5), but his notion that carrier task forces can function safely without them is reckless and unrealistic.

Just as the retention of the nuclear deterrent must be based on possible future threats that could face us during its long lifetime, Mr Page's notion that frigates and destroyers are "almost certainly useless... for serious maritime combat'' presupposes a degree of omniscience that neither he nor I possess.

[This government declared in its 1998 Strategic Defence Review that two future aircraft carriers would be built and that the destroyer and frigate fleet would be reduced from 35 to 32. Since then, the government has embarked on major campaigns in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq whilst simultaneously slashing our forces in order to pay for them. Despite the increased commitments, in 2004 the frigate and destroyer fleet was cut to just 25 whilst the then Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon absurdly claimed that numbers of platforms would no longer be relevant as ships become more powerful.]

Caught in the crossfire of people such as Mr Page who regard frigates and destroyers as impotent and politicians who regard them as powerful enough to have their numbers slashed with impunity, it is hardly surprising that those who care about the maritime defence of this country are at their wits' end.

Yours faithfully,

Dr JULIAN LEWIS MP
Shadow Defence Minister (Royal Navy)
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

[NOTE: The words in square brackets were not included in the published version.]