Caroline Dinenage MP yesterday met the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon to discuss a range of issues affecting the Gosport constituency and her fight against the planned disposal of HMS Sultan.
The meetings follow announcements that three Government sites in Gosport will be disposed of in coming years: Fort Blockhouse, HMS Sultan and the Haslar Immigration Removal Centre (IRC).
Caroline raised her concerns with the Chancellor about the cumulative impact of these disposals on Gosport’s economic base. She made clear her position that to lose the excellent training establishment at Sultan would be to the detriment of Gosport, the Royal Navy and the country as a whole.
In the wake of the Autumn Statement, in which the Chancellor announced a new Productivity Investment Fund worth £23 billion, earmarked for high value-generating infrastructure and research, Caroline made the case for greater investment in the Solent region. She emphasised how poor infrastructure undermines our region’s growth making our area 4% less productive than the South East region and called for Government support to correct this deficit.
At the meeting with the Defence Secretary, Caroline honed in on the MOD’s decision to close HMS Sultan and Fort Blockhouse. She made a strong case against the proposed plans regarding HMS Sultan, pointing out that the decision is not in the best interests of the Gosport community, the Royal Navy or the MOD themselves and sought further detail on the level of research that had taken place to reach this conclusion. Caroline also questioned what measures the Department will be taking to ensure a viable future for the sites listed for disposal, which is essential not just for the local community but for military capabilities and the taxpayer. She stressed that the MOD’s record in this area is not strong in Gosport, citing the examples of the low-value sale of Haslar and that RNAS Daedalus still remains under public ownership.
Speaking after the appointments, Caroline said:
“In the wake of a number of difficult announcements concerning the Gosport constituency in recent months, I have today made representations at the highest levels regarding HMS Sultan. The MOD owns roughly 21% of the land in the Gosport constituency. While a great deal of this could better serve our area by being released to commercial developers, who would help create jobs and deliver growth, I believe it would be to the massive detriment to Gosport and the Royal Navy to entirely lose the excellent engineering training at Sultan.
“I welcomed the Government’s focus on boosting productivity in the Autumn Statement last week. Today I made clear to the Chancellor that there is massive potential for the Solent region to attract international investment and generate growth but we are currently lagging behind the rest of the South East region in terms of productivity and connectivity, so extra Government support in the coming years would be most welcome.”
Alongside the meetings Caroline has created a taskforce to strategise a way forward for HMS Sultan, Fort Blockhouse and the former Haslar IRC. She hopes that yesterday’s high level deputations will help secure Government support for the group’s ambitions to see a vibrant, productive future for the Gosport constituency and Solent region more generally.