Philip Hammond on next generation of nuclear submarines

 
HMS Vanguard The HMS Vengeance will get a refit costing £350 million

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond's visit to Devonport Naval Base gave me the opportunity to quiz him on a range of naval matters.

He was there to announce the £350 million contract for Babcock to refit the Vanguard Class submarine, HMS Vengeance.

The contract - and the 2,000 jobs the MOD says it will secure over the next three and a half years - will, of course, be very welcome.

But Devonport, understandably, always has at least one eye on the future.

With this in mind I asked Mr Hammond about the next generation of nuclear submarines (the Vanguard Class have had their lives extended but are still on the way out), Devonport's future as a "deep maintenance" centre and whether the two new aircraft carriers will definitely be built and what kind of planes will fly from them.

Hat-doffing

You'll notice that, as our waterside chat proceeded, I was sporting a hard hat.

This was a safety precaution enjoined on me by the naval authorities rather than a voluntary attempt to cut a dash among my colleagues or in front of the camera.

Philip Hammond in Devonport Philip Hammond's 'bareheaded cheek' in Devonport this week

Everybody else was dutifully wearing the same headgear.

Everybody that is except Mr Hammond and constituency MP Oliver Colvile, whom you can glimpse behind me during the interview and who appeared to take Mr Hammond's hat-doffing as the cue to bare his own head.

Mr Colvile later explained that he and the Secretary of State had asked - and received - specific permission from Babcock to remove their hats when they finished their tour of the submarine itself.

This, though, seems at variance with the navy's policy of issuing absolutely everybody else with hard hats even if - like me - they were merely standing on the quayside.

Here's what the Defence Secretary had to say about some of the biggest issues facing the Navy (after discarding that irksome titfer):

BBC Sunday Politics' political editor Martyn Oates speaks to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond about a range of naval matters on his visit to Devonport Naval Base.

 
Martyn Oates Article written by Martyn Oates Martyn Oates Political editor, South West

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    Comment number 5.

    MP's and hard hats - they dont need them - most are thick skinned and thick skulled - and not much inside to protect. Now their bank accounts, salaries and allowances are different matter, lovingly guarded and protected. Next big announcement on aircraft and floating airfields (carriers), lay odds on that the Navy brass will get their wishes and the poor foot soldiers will get nought.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 4.

    I guess basic safety precautions like this can easily seem petty and trivial - as long as nothing goes wrong. When it does - and, for instance, somebody sustains a serious blow to the head while not wearing a hard hat - nobody considers it remotely petty or trivial.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    As for the hat issue per se, I wasn't the only one present who was surprised to see the politicians choosing to remove their protective headgear while naval personnel (including a rear admiral), MOD officials and reporters continued to wear theirs. I though viewers might well be equally bemused.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 2.

    I'm not sure whether you watched the video attached to the blog post. The vast majority of this is devoted to discussing some of the biggest issues facing the navy with Mr Hammond. The hats only get a brief mention at the end. The text was was merely intended to introduce the filmed interview.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Mr Oates' report on the 350 million pound contract securing jobs in Plymouth for 3 years was more than half about the wearing of hard hats. Surely such excellent news should not be trivialised by such petty reporting.

 

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