Penny Mordaunt won Portsmouth North at the general election and in giving her maiden speech during a debate on defence matters on Monday, she declared that like Sir Rogere Keyes, her one-tome predecessor as MP for Portsmouth, she intended to regularly come to the chamber “to speak for the Navy”:
“I was at primary school in Portsmouth during the Falklands conflict. Britain did not expect to face such an act of territorial expansion, but the Navy was unfaltering in its readiness and commitment to the defence of the British people. That spirit of duty and service made a deep impression on me, even though the Navy had already played a major role in my life before that. Indeed, I am named after HMS Penelope, which was the first cruiser able to do a complete about-turn within her own length-a manoeuvre that I hope never to have to deploy here.
“That spirit of service is as strong as ever in the Royal Navy, but although it is understandable that recent debates in the House and the wider media have focused primarily on the Army, the senior service has, as a consequence, often felt under-represented and unappreciated. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House recognise the contribution that the Navy makes to our way of life, to our ability to trade, to hydrographical and meteorological services, to tackling crime and to providing help in times of crisis. However, the breadth of its role should not detract from the depth of its contribution to the defence of the realm-continuous at-sea deterrence, delivery of commando force and air assets and mine counter-measures are but a few of its roles.
“In the review, we must not be sea-blind. We face very tough challenges and calls for immediate cuts. To see the scale of the challenge, one has to look just at the disparity between what the last strategic defence review suggested for the Navy and the current number of ships in service or planned to be in service. For example, the last review recommended 12 destroyers, but we are building only six. To close the gap between need and affordability and to preserve the development and maintenance capability that we want in our bases and dockyards, we need a planned but flexible approach to procurement. The review must listen to the drum beat of production in those UK yards and must seize every opportunity to strengthen UK exports.”
“HMS Raleigh – the Royal Navy's premier training establishment in the south-west and a real part of the community, where all ratings join the service and receive the first phase of their naval training – is located in South East Cornwall and has considerable influence on the town of Torpoint, as well as the Rame peninsula. Four new accommodation blocks, built as part of the major upgrade of facilities, have recently been unveiled. They are named Antelope, Ardent, Sir Galahad and Conqueror to commemorate four ships that played a part in the Falklands campaign.
“I have a specific interest in the Navy because my daughter is a serving Royal Navy officer. I have gained first-hand knowledge of the various ways in which our senior service operates in many roles around the globe. The Royal Navy is flexible, resilient and capable, providing Government with a range of options to deal with threats and challenges facing the UK and her allies. The varied tasks undertaken include: providing support for the Department for International Development; supporting the Home Office in protecting the territorial integrity of our home waters; providing fishery protection in English, Welsh and Northern Irish waters; and supporting the Cabinet Office in co-ordinating UK maritime surveillance information.
“The UK has been the world's most successful defence exporter over the past 10 years, and the naval sector earns around £3 billion of revenue per year. Flag-officer sea training is based in Plymouth. Over 100 ships and submarines from the Royal Navy and the navies of NATO and allied nations benefit from FOST's training expertise each year. I hope that the strategic defence review will recognise the return that could be generated from any investment in the Royal Navy, which offers variety and flexibility in the way in which it operates. I hope that my colleagues on the Government Front Bench appreciate that Devonport's dockyard and naval base provide South East Cornwall and, indeed, the city of Plymouth with a huge amount of benefits. I urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to keep funding in South East Cornwall, and to use the wealth of expertise that we have in our area.”