'Speed up' Navy support ships deal to boost industry during Covid crisis, MP urges

Ministers have been urged to "speed up the timeline" for building Royal Navy supply ships in order to get British industry moving during the Covid crisis.

Labour MP John Spellar has welcomed the Government's decision for UK-led teams to build three new Fleet Solid Support ships, which will carry supplies such as ammunition and food for Navy aircraft carriers.

He said the decision was a boost for British jobs and workers but accused ministers of "dithering around", with the campaign for the £1.5 billion project not due to be launched until Spring.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced the decision this week following months of pressure to give the contract to a UK-based firm.

Warley MP and former Defence Minister Mr Spellar, who sits on the Commons Defence Committee, said: "It's good news they have finally – if belatedly – acknowledged that British firms and British workers should be in the lead, but I would urge them to speed-up the timeline not only for the benefit of the Royal Navy but also to get British industry moving again in the Covid crisis.

"They aren't even launching the campaign until the Spring, they're still dithering around and don't seem to understand the need to get manufacturing moving in this country.

"Why the delay? They know what they need."

Warley MP John Spellar

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that while "international companies will be invited to work in collaboration with UK firms to feed in their skills and expertise... the successful manufacturing team must be led by a British company".

Mr Wallace said: "Shipbuilding has historically been a British success story, and I am determined to revitalise this amazing industry as part of this Government's commitment to build back better.

"The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow."

The MoD said the competition to build the vessels will begin next spring and will require "a significant proportion of the build and assembly work to be carried out in the UK".

A UK consortium of Babcock, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce bid for the original contract and is being backed by the trade union-affiliated Keep Britain Afloat campaign.

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