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Ministers face calls to come clean over details of £1.6billion deal for new Royal Navy ships

Ministers have been urged to clarify how much work from a £1.6billion deal to build support ships for the Royal Navy will take place amid fears that almost half could be done in Spain. 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, the Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, as preferred bidder to construct three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels. 

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships will be assembled at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast site, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

Work on the vessels will also take place at Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz in southern Spain, under a move that Mr Wallace said would ‘bolster technology transfer and key skills from a world-renowned shipbuilder, crucial in the modernisation of British shipyards’.  

The chief executive of H&W, John Wood, has said a ‘minimum’ of 60 per cent of the work will be done in the UK. 

However, ministers have been more coy, with the Ministry of Defence only committing to a ‘majority’ being done in the UK.

Last week Armed Forces Minister Alex Chalk said that ‘the precise balance of work between each individual yard is a matter for Harland & Wolff’, adding: ‘The number of jobs sustained in Spain to deliver the Fleet Solid Support ships is a matter for the contractor concerned but it will be fewer than the number of jobs sustained and created in the UK.’

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused minister of potentially ‘backsliding on commitments to investment and jobs’.

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships will be assembled at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast site, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, the Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, as preferred bidder to construct three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week announced the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, the Spanish state-owned shipbuilding company, as preferred bidder to construct three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused minister of potentially 'backsliding on commitments to investment and jobs'.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey accused minister of potentially ‘backsliding on commitments to investment and jobs’.

‘By building these ships in Spain, Ministers have rejected a big opportunity to boost our UK economy and strengthen our sovereign industrial capability at a time when threats are increasing,’ he said. 

‘Ministers could have removed all doubt by building these ships entirely in the UK, as Labour would do.’

Asked to put a firmer figure on the work split between the UK and Spain, the MoD referred MailOnline to its original statement. 

The contract will see the vessels built to a British design by Bath-based BMT, which forms the rest of the Team Resolute consortium along with Navantia UK and H&W. 

Legally all Royal Navy warships have to be built in the United Kingdom, but the law requires contracts for support ships to be put out to international tender. There were believed to have been five bidders.

Last week Mr Chalk tied to woo SMEs by telling the Make UK Defence Summit in Birmingham he believes very passionately in small business.

Last week Mr Chalk tied to woo SMEs by telling the Make UK Defence Summit in Birmingham he believes very passionately in small business.

The building of the previous round of four support ships was heavily criticised when the contract went to a South Korean shipyard in 2012. 

The opposition has also raised concerns about the amount of defence work going to small businesses in the UK. 

They say that just one in every £20 spent on defence goes to firms employing fewer than 250 people and turning over less than £50million a year, despite them making up 97 per cent of the sector in Britain. 

Firms in the south of England received 54 per cent of the just under £1billion spent with SMEs in 2020/21, government figures show.

MOD Expenditure with Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK was just under £1 billion in 2020/21.

SMEs in the South of England received the most expenditure, with 54% of the total SME spend.

Firms in the south of England received 54 per cent of the just under £1billion spent with SMEs in 2020/21, government figures show

Firms in the south of England received 54 per cent of the just under £1billion spent with SMEs in 2020/21, government figures show

Last week Mr Chalk tied to woo SMEs by telling the Make UK Defence Summit in Birmingham he believes very passionately in small business.  

‘I believe it is in your interest and the nations interest that you get a fair shot when it comes to defence procurement, he said, highlighting work done at the city’s airport by a team converting Boeing 737s into E-7 airborne early warning aircraft. 

‘As the Chancellor made clear in his financial statement last week – we need to deliver the maximum value for money, we need to deliver the maximum punch for our pound so to speak.

‘As a result, your role as suppliers to our armed forces is more important than ever. Not just in keeping our forces equipped with everything they need, not just providing that innovation, technology, and cutting-edge capability which keeps us ahead of our adversaries, but through your achievements strengthening the entire sector so that no matter what happens, when the call comes, our nation is ready to respond.’

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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