THE MINISTRY of Defence today refused to be drawn on the future of Hampshire’s historic Royal Navy base which is reportedly facing closure with the loss of 17,000 jobs as part of Government spending cuts.

Closing the Hampshire base could help save the new coalition Government £200m a year as operations are phased out over the next decade, it has been reported.

The future of the base, which is home to Nelson’s flagship Victory, is a major question in a defence review, which is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Unlike other naval bases in Plymouth and Faslane in Scotland, the 800-year-old Hampshire base is reportedly under threat because it doesn’t hold any nuclear submarines.

It has been estimated that closing it would cause the loss of 17,200 employees who work there with a further 18,000 jobs threatened as it would cost the local economy £680m.

Speculation of closing the base comes after a “senior Whitehall defence source” was quoted as saying “the blueprint for closing Portsmouth is drawn and ready to go”.

But today an MoD spokeswoman said: “The defence review is underway and we can’t pre-empt any decisions that might be made.

“We will undertake a fundamental review of the way we provide defence capability in the UK,” she added.