TWO North-East companies were named by a Government defence minister yesterday as being in a strong position to win work on the £3.9bn aircraft carriers contract.
Lord Drayson, minister for defence equipment and support, said A&P Tyne in Hebburn, South Tyneside, and Pallion Engineering from Sunderland, were among a dozen companies competing to build the upper sections of the two 65,000 tonne carriers.
Speaking at the official opening of the £2.3m Marine Design Centre in central Newcastle, the minister’s words came after defence secretary Des Browne promised to ensure North-East firms would get the chance to win contracts on the carriers.
Lord Drayson said: “A&P Tyne and Pallion Engineering will be competing for work on the upper blocks. This is the largest piece of work the navy has ever had. Building these ships will test the capacity of the whole UK shipbuilding industry.
“My concern is we ensure these ships are delivered on time, and UK industry has to work together on it.”
When the commissioning of the carriers was announced, the defence secretary was asked by Durham North MP Kevan Jones for an assurance that the economic impact of the £3.9bn order would be spread around the country.
The programme – to which Babcock Design & Technology in North Shields has also contributed – is expected to create or safeguard 10,000 jobs around the UK, with around half of those in the shipyards at Govan, Barrow, Rosyth and Portsmouth, which will build the giant sections of the two vessels.
That leaves another 5,000 jobs further down the supply chain, and defence industry body NDI (Northern Defence Industries) is campaigning for as many as possible to come to the North-East.
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Jones said: “The announcement (of the carriers being commissioned) will be good news in the North-East, as a lot of small and medium-sized enterprises will get work from the contract.
“I urge my right honourable friend to ask the consortium to work with non-defence industries and other organisations that help SMEs to get work in the supply chain, so that the maximum economic impact of the orders is spread throughout the United Kingdom.”
The defence secretary said: “I give him the assurance that he asks for and will ensure that that message is driven home to those who will build the carriers.” Mr Jones was optimistic about prospects for the region’s defence companies. He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for North-East business. My job is to keep promoting North-East industry and making sure prime contractors recognise the array of talent there is in the region.”