By Jon Rosamond, Defence Correspondent
Portsmouth News – 27 January 2006
An outspoken Navy Chief who was a thorn in the side of ministers has been snubbed with a lukewarm send-off. Admiral Sir Alan West, the First Sea Lord, was given the frosty farewell from Defence Secretary John Reid.
The far-from-glowing good-bye message was seen as revenge by Dr Reid for Admiral West's several thinly-veiled attacks on the Government over cuts to the fleet. And observers believe it was as close to a “good riddance” as the politician could get while remaining polite to the admiral, who is retiring after three years in the top job.
The response came when the minister was asked for his assessment of Admiral West's time in the job in a parliamentary question. In his written answer, Dr Reid said:
“Admiral Sir Alan West has overseen an important stage in the transformation of the Royal Navy. This includes the introduction of new ships and aircraft and important changes to the personnel and organisational structures of the Royal Navy, delivering a flexible and versatile force for good with an increased level of capability. Admiral West has worked to raise the profile of the Royal Navy, and in particular has drawn attention to the relevance and importance of the service to national life through the medium of the successful Nelson commemorations. By doing so he will leave an important legacy from his time as First Sea Lord.”
Although the reply acknowledges Admiral West's work, it is far from the enthusiastic send-offs given to other senior figures who are more willing to toe the Government's line. Admiral West is expected to return in kind by unleashing some devastating broadsides against the Government when he leaves office next month.
Dr Reid's dour reply was far from the praise showered on Admiral West by others. New Forest East MP Julian Lewis, the Conservatives' Navy Spokesman, who asked the question which provoked Dr Reid's dour response, said:
“Admiral West has been an outstanding First Sea Lord. The Royal Navy has faced enormous strains and pressures, yet he's borne up magnificently.
“I thought I'd give the Government the opportunity to put their gratitude on record. Sorry to say, their mealy-mouthed answer has failed the test miserably.”
A naval officer who has worked with Admiral West said:
“He's a war hero who has proved himself under fire. You need talent and guts to get where he has and succeed.
“Dr Reid's damning valedictory shows the Government is childish and petulant and has scores to settle.”