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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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‘Don’t rush’ Longtown defence depot decision, says expert

A defence expert says the Government should not rush into a decision on the fate of Longtown’s Ministry of Defence depot.

The 300-strong workforce at the munitions base is anxiously awaiting a decision from Defence Minister Philip Dunne about whether the site is to be shut with operations transferred to Warwickshire.

Politicians and unions are continuing to fight vigorously against closure.

Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, this week questioned Sir Richard Mottram, former permanent secretary to the Ministry of Defence and a cabinet office security and intelligence co-ordinator, on whether it was wise for the Government to go ahead with the plan to close sites such as Longtown.

Speaking at a parliamentary foreign affairs select committee hearing into the foreign and security implications of Scottish independence, he questioned the decision to move defence munitions sites to Scotland – leaving only one site in England.

Sir Richard Mottram responded that, were he still in government, he would go “slow” on the plan.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Stewart said: “This was a very important reply from one of the most senior figures in British security and defence.

“If Scotland were to go independent, the rest of the UK would be even more dependant on Longtown. I am delighted Sir Richard feels it would be prudent of the Government to “go slow” on such a decision.”

He continued: “The Scottish referendum is not till late 2014. No decisions should be taken until we see the result of that referendum – and I am delighted that such a senior figure is also expressing caution.

An announcement had been expected from the Government on the Longtown depot’s future a month ago, but was delayed pending the investigation into the theft of munitions from a train that had left the base.

Mr Stewart’s questioning came as the Longtown defence general munitions packaging team were received an award – from the man who will decide their fate.

The Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Acquisition Awards, presented by Mr Dunne, recognise and reward excellence in the field of acquisition.

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