DEFENCE Secretary Bob Ainsworth hailed the Government’s commitment to the long-term future of the maritime industry as he announced developments to three Royal Navy projects, including one in Cumbria.
A £127m contract has been signed with BAE Systems Surface Ships to consider design proposals for the Type 26 combat ship, Mr Ainsworth said in a written ministerial statement, while a commitment to proceed with the Astute class of submarines in Barrow has also been made.
And a 15-year partnering agreement has been put in place with Babcock Marine covering surface ship and submarine support activities, which should provide savings and benefits worth £1.2bn to the Ministry of Defence.
“These decisions demonstrate the Government’s commitment to the long-term future of the Royal Navy and the UK’s maritime defence industry,” Mr Ainsworth said.
“They will deliver vital defence capability and sustain a world-class, efficient sovereign maritime industry.”
But the Tories hit out at the timing of the announcement and accused ministers of “racking up one last spending binge on the taxpayers’ credit card”.
The BAE Systems contract will consider options for the Type 26 warship, which is expected to have multiple roles including anti-submarine warfare and counter-piracy roles and is due to enter service in 2020.
On the Astute submarines, the MoD is proceeding with the initial build work for boat five, as well as long-term procurement for boat six, at a cost of £300m. “This commitment is necessary now to ensure a consistent workload for the UK’s submarine building industry,” Mr Ainsworth said.
“This investment will allow the timely delivery of the Astute class boats, which are the biggest and most advanced attack submarines ever ordered for the Royal Navy.”
Outside the Commons, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: “These programme announcements are welcome news for the Navy. You simply cannot have an effective Navy without capable frigates, and the Type 26 combat ship will form the future backbone of the Royal Navy’s surface combatant force, alongside the new Type 45 destroyers.
“These ships will be highly versatile, able to operate across the full spectrum of operations, from war fighting to disaster relief.”
But shadow defence secretary Liam Fox said: “We are just weeks away from the start of a scandalously overdue strategic defence review, and Labour’s bankrupt shopaholics are still racking up one last spending binge on the taxpayers’ credit card.”
Earlier this week BAE Systems has confirmed 217 of the 650 jobs at its Scotswood Road site in Newcastle will go by the end of the year after it was beaten to a £1bn bid to help build new Fres Scout armoured vehicles for the British Army by American firm General Dynamics. The company is discussing the future of the plant.