Before I answer this question, Mr Speaker, may I join you in welcoming our overseas guests here today? They are strong, important and valued Commonwealth allies. In particular, I thank our Australian representative: Sydney hosted the Invictus games in October and did an absolutely fantastic job in reminding all of us that there is life after injury, and that, through sport, people can develop a new chapter as they advance.
On the Royal Marines, I hope, Mr Speaker, that you will join me in congratulating the Royal Marines as they celebrate 355 years since their formation. They have a fantastic history: helping Lord Nelson secure victory at Trafalgar; ensuring that we secured The Rock in 1704; enabling us to land at Normandy with 17,500 Marines; and, of course, helping in the liberation of the Falklands. We all owe those who earned the coveted Green Beret a huge debt of gratitude.
That is characteristically gracious of the right hon. Gentleman. I just add that Melbourne is also hosting, over the next fortnight, the Australian Open, one of the great sporting events of the calendar and, for this Chair, now and again, a respite from politics.
Since my Adjournment debate on the Royal Marines’ basing arrangements last week, I have received lots of feedback from those who have served in the Royal Marines. It is clear that the association between the Royal Marines and Stonehouse is a bond worth preserving. Will the Minister consider extending the closure date of Stonehouse barracks in Plymouth from 2023 to 2025 or later to allow enough time to build the state of the art Royal Marines superbase in the city that our Royal Marines rightly deserve?
I join the hon. Gentleman—I hope the whole House will agree with me—in saying thank you to all those who have served and who are serving in the Royal Marines. He is aware that we had a series of debates last week supporting the Royal Marines and confirming an important continued presence in the south-west. He will be aware that 3 Commando Brigade will remain in the Plymouth area; 29 Commando Royal Artillery must move from the Citadel, which is no longer fit for purpose; 40 Commando will move from Taunton; 42 Commando will remain in Bickleigh; 45 Commando will remain in Condor; and our close protection unit looking after our nuclear assets and Lympstone will continue as well.
The Minister’s predecessor assured me that Plymouth would remain the centre of gravity for amphibious operations in this country. Will the Minister confirm that, whatever happens in this rebasing strategy, Plymouth will remain the centre of gravity for amphibious operations in the United Kingdom?
I can confirm that Plymouth will remain the centre of gravity for the Royal Marines commandos. As I just said, 3 Commando headquarters will remain there. Confirmation of our commitment to the Royal Marines was made this year when the Defence Secretary was able to confirm the continuation of Albion and Bulwark, those stalwart workhorses required for amphibious capability.