This morning, Tuesday 14th November, Johnny Mercer MP led the Defence Committee’s special inquiry session into the National Security Capabilities Review that is presently underway.
In a session where General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE (Rtd), Former Commander, Joint Forces Command, declared that the government were not having ‘a proper strategic discussion’, Johnny Mercer pressed the former chiefs on the rumoured proposed changes to the UK’s amphibious fleet.
While being question by Mr Mercer, Admiral Sir George Zambellas GCB DSC DL, Former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, was asked for his view on the possibility of abandoning the amphibious capability.
In a clear-cut response, where the Former First Sea Lord equated his successor’s dilemma with having to choose between “having his left arm cut off or his right arm cut off”, he said that “nobody in the world of complex warfare, especially for an island nation that delivers force from the sea, thinks a reduction in the sophisticated end of amphibiosity is a good idea”.
The Plymouth MP then turned his questions back to General Sir Richard Barrons, asking him for his message to politicians about how they should advocate on behalf the country’s defence policy. In yet another straight forward response, the General returned the question asking, “Are we really saying that we don’t want the capability to put a force ashore over a beach and confine ourselves to ports, are we really saying we never want to take British people out of a trouble sport except through a port, are we really saying we want to remove that capacity for humanitarian assistance. Because if we are really saying that, we are ignoring how the world really works.”
Speaking after leaving the inquiry session, Johnny Mercer said:
“The former senior officers who appeared in front of our committee hearing today held some of the highest roles within our military. Their understanding of both the capabilities of our military and the threats this country face must not be underestimated.
“I think, based upon their very frank words today, that abandoning the UK’s amphibious capability purely on the basis we cannot see a present need is short sighted and will leave the UK lacking in the future.
“The Former First Sea Lord’s assessment that nobody looks forward to opposed landings was, I believe, very relevant. Simply because we do not want to envisage a time when we will not need to project force onto land through a beachhead does mean that we should not be prepared for if that time should come.
“I hope the new Defence Secretary will bear that in mind as proposals from the various services on how to implement this capability review start to hit his desk.”
Notes to editors:
- Johnny Mercer MP is a member of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.
- The inquiry session on 14th November 2017, held on the parliamentary estate, was a one-off session into the Ministry of Defence’s National Security Capabilities Review.
- Witnesses in the first panel are as follows:
- Air Marshal Sir Baz North KCB OBE (Rtd), Former Deputy Commander-in-Chief Personnel, Air Command;
- General Sir Richard Barrons KCB CBE (Rtd), Former Commander, Joint Forces Command;
- Admiral Sir George Zambellas GCB DSC DL, Former First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff.
- The witness in the second panel was Sir Mark Lyall Grant KCMG, Former National Security Adviser.