Cuts to Royal Marines are ‘illiterate’ and ‘short-sighted’
Defence committee warns that scrapping amphibious ships would significantly undermine UK security
PROPOSALS to shrink the Royal Marines and axe amphibious ships in defence cost-cutting would be “militarily illiterate” and “totally at odds with strategic reality” MPs warn today.
A report from the Commons defence committee says following through with leaked suggestions to dramatically cut amphibious forces would “significantly undermine” Britain’s security.
The report also criticises the conduct of a Whitehall national security review, saying it failed to consult experts and was carried out without any Parliamentary scrutiny.
The National Security Capability Review begun last summer led to proposals to cut up to 2,000 Royal Marines as part of attempts to fill a £20billion budget black hole over the next decade.
Suggested cuts also included the retirement of amphibious ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, as part of wide ranging reductions to all three services.
But a series of former senior officers told the MPs that cutting the ships would leave Britain unable to mount a major amphibious landing.
While Theresa May and Gavin Williamson both rejected the proposals just before Christmas, MPs say that unless the Defence Secretary can secure more funding, the Marines remain at risk.
Mr Williamson has launched a new defence review, but has continued to stress the need to find savings and efficiencies in the MoD budgets.
The report concludes: “The world is changing and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines need to change with it.
“However, if the price of such change is the sacrifice of this country’s amphibious capability, we can only conclude this to be a short-sighted, militarily illiterate manoeuvre totally at odds with strategic reality.” The committee dismissed MoD suggestions that the nation’s new aircraft carriers could take the role of the amphibious ships.
HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales “are in reality no substitute for the purpose-built amphibious warships in this role,” the report concluded.
Julian Lewis, the defence committee chairman, said the proposal to axe HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark 15 years before they were due to leave service “demonstrates, yet again, the desperate inadequacy of the defence budget”.
He said: “We must reinstate a target of around 3 per cent of GDP – the percentage which we spent right up to the mid-1990s, long after the ‘peace dividend’ cuts, at the end of the Cold War, had been made.”
He said that unless Mr Williamson received more money “the Royal Marines will be reduced to a level far below the critical mass needed to
‘We cannot afford to be shrinking to the ‘little Britain’ so many of our foes would like to see’
sustain them as Commando force”.
The committee said global trends such as the spread of cities along the world’s coastlines meant there was an ongoing need for amphibious operations.
Yet, while every major defence power was seeking to increase their amphibious forces, Britain “may be forced prematurely to abandon them”.
Johnny Mercer MP, a former officer in 29 Commando, said: “This report puts into sharp focus the folly of removing from this nation’s military capabilities the amphibious fleet, and reducing the Royal Marines.
“In an area where every single other credible tier one military nation is expanding their amphibious forces, we cannot afford to be heading in the other direction, shrinking to the ‘little Britain’ so many of our foes would like to see.” a high-readiness