I absolutely agree. In my role as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the armed forces covenant, I have spent some time in Northern Ireland, where we have some real challenges at the grassroots level—not the political level—to try to help those who need day-to-day support to look after themselves. I have met some extraordinary women and extraordinary wives—I take the opportunity to say they are extraordinary—who are looking after very damaged former soldiers, some of whom are the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. They deserve all credit.
The world is not a safer place, and while the nature of warfare may be changing, at the end of the day we need to be able to reach wherever the threat is, bearing in mind that, as my son always reminds me, five sevenths of the globe are covered in water. Ships are therefore a critical tool, and our shipbuilding strategy must reflect the importance we play as a United Kingdom, and a critical part of NATO.
The key point is that presence is influence, and with influence come positive outcomes. We cannot do deterrence if we are not there. We saw that demonstrated in stark images on our TV screens last week when HMS Montrose in the strait of Hormuz assured the safe passage of a BP tanker, protecting it from the insurgent threat of Iranian military attack. If Montrose had not been there, I dread to think what might have happened. Freedom of navigation around the world’s seas and oceans is critical to our economy: 95% of all our imports come by sea, and it is NATO’s navies that keep the sea lanes open for commercial traffic. We would all be very cross indeed and notice quickly if Felixstowe or Dover were shut down by enemy attack. In the same way, just because we cannot see the huge areas of oceans from which our goods and energy are being brought to us, that does not mean we should forget that we need to police those waters, too.