[NIS View on Navel Base Review Debate]
The Naval Base Review need not set Portsmouth and Plymouth communities at odds with one another. The real benefits and losses need to be examined since neither of these bases needs to close. The fundamental related question is whether Britain needs to have nuclear weapons any more or whether is it better to invest in the surface fleet? In Plymouth, the private DML Devonport dockyard should never have been licensed for nuclear submarine refit work, being sited so close to houses and schools. Many in the community would not be sorry to see it go. Fortunately, DML is already working with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to build its capacity to deal with nuclear waste, a far less dangerous business than nuclear reactor servicing. So it is not a question of job losses there. Portsmouth still remains an obvious port for the surface fleet but may well need to adapt to modern needs in future.
In the long run what is needed is for Devonport to see an end to its reliance on nuclear contracts and to increase its ship servicing facilities. Portsmouth, renowned for sea training excellence, could offer a far-reaching and more enriching youth training experience than any ‘boot camp’. The MoD can take wise decisions, as it did in not going down the nuclear-powered route for the new carriers. With proper public consultation a win-win situation can be achieved in the current dilemma.
Nuclear weapons play no part in the operational security of the sea and have for too long drained the MoD’s coffers, bringing about the present financial crisis. If the people of Portsmouth and Plymouth let their MPs know they oppose keeping nuclear weapons, there will be funds released over decades to make Plymouth a safer city and in the meantime, Portsmouth need not be sacrificed on the altar of nuclear weapons.