Cuts to Royal Marines would ‘significantly undermine’ UK security, say MPs
Cutting the number of Royal Marines and two of their amphibious ships would "significantly undermine" UK security, MPs have warned.
The Defence Committee said ministers risked being “totally at odds with strategic reality” amid speculation that up to 2,000 marines could be lost as part of a government review.
The Royal Marines have already seen their numbers drop from 7,020 to 6,580 since 2011 – and more cuts could see a further 30% reduction.
"Given the disproportionate contribution the Royal Marines make to defence and the sheer range and versatility of their military skills, both they and the country's security would be significantly undermined," the report says.
The report adds that scrapping HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark could prevent them from carrying out "substantial" amphibious landings.
The committee say the ships are "essential for landing personnel, heavy equipment and supplies on a beach" and "their disposal would remove any prospect of the Armed Forces achieving a successful amphibious landing with a substantial force".
“Every other major defence power is seeking to increase its amphibious capabilities at the very time that the UK may be forced prematurely to abandon them," it adds.
The leaked proposals are from the National Security Capability Review (NSCR), which the Defence Committee claims has been carried out behind closed doors without enough input from experts.
Defence Committee chairman Dr Julian Lewis said the plans, were they to go ahead, would highlight the “desperate inadequacy” of Britain’s defence budget, after he was told in January that the ships were not due to leave service until 2033 and 2034.
"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.
He added that without extra funding the Royal Marines will be “reduced to a level far below the critical mass needed to sustain them as a high-readiness Commando force”.
Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, said: “The defence review that is currently underway must be driven by strategy and a clear sense of the personnel and equipment that are necessary to Britain’s defences.
“This cannot simply be about making further short-sighted and damaging cuts to our national security, the sad hallmark of Conservative Defence policy to date.”