Labour slams 'downright reckless' planes move amid Nato allies defence support
Britain is reliant on "the goodwill of others" to keep the country safe, Labour has claimed, as figures revealed that Nato allies deployed nearly 40 aircraft to RAF Lossiemouth last year.
Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said 37 maritime patrol aircraft - including planes from the United States, Germany and France - had been temporarily deployed to the Scottish military airfield in 2016.
The number of aircraft from Nato allies at RAF Lossiemouth has increased by 76% from 21 since 2015.
The figures, revealed in answer to a written parliamentary question from shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith, sparked criticism from Labour who claimed the UK had been left reliant on allies to patrol British waters.
In 2010, the Government decided to scrap a new generation of Nimrod aircraft - a decision which Labour said now looks "downright reckless".
Ms Griffith said: "As an island nation, the ability to patrol our own shores and protect our key military assets is absolutely essential.
"As Labour said at the time, the Tories' decision in 2010 to cut up our Nimrod aircraft and sell them for scrap was a serious mistake. It now looks downright reckless."
She added: "These figures highlight the extent to which we are now reliant on the goodwill of others to keep Britain safe. We are thankful for our allies' support but this level of dependence is simply unacceptable.
"Everywhere you look right now - whether it is the shrinking of the Army, the loss of key capabilities or the failure to deliver a national shipbuilding strategy - the damage the Tories are doing to our armed forces is undermining our national security."
However, the Ministry of Defence said the number of operational flights in 2016 was lower than the previous year.
A spokesman said: "Eighty percent of the flights in 2016 were exercises and the actual number of operational flights was lower last year than in 2015.
"In 2010 there was a £38 billion blackhole in the defence budget and difficult decisions had to be made, including scrapping Nimrod which was nine years late, £800m over budget, and had failed to produce one plane that was safe to fly.
"We work closely with our Nato allies on security in the North Atlantic and have robust force protection measures in place for our assets which we continually review. We are investing in maritime patrol aircraft as part of our £178 billion equipment plan, with the first of our nine P8 aircraft set to be delivered in 2019 as planned."
In a parliamentary written question, Ms Griffith asked: "Which countries had maritime patrol aircraft based at RAF Lossiemouth during 2016; and how many maritime patrol aircraft each of those countries deployed to RAF Lossiemouth during that year?"
Mr Ellwood said the United States had temporarily deployed 20 maritime patrol aircraft aircraft to RAF Lossiemouth during 2016, while Canada had deployed eight, France five, Germany three and Norway one.