Ships will be built says government

‘No delay’ to navy frigate orders, insists Westminster

Type 26 frigateThe Scotland Office tonight issued a firm denial that a giant warship building programme on the Clyde has been “delayed indefinitely”.

Ministry of Defence chief executive for equipment Tony Douglas told MPs today that no start date on the Type 26 frigates had been set because design of the warships was only 60% complete.

His comments before the Commons Defence Committee added to speculation that the government could no longer afford to build the vessels for the Royal Navy.

Former Sea Lord, Admiral Lord West, last month told the committee that cutting steel on the new ships on the Clyde had been put back because “there’s almost no money available this year, and we are really strapped next year”.

But the Scotland Office tonight issued a statement saying: “The UK Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme.

“Over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warships and, because Scotland voted to remain part of the UK in 2014, will continue to be an important manufacturing base for them.”

It added: “The Type 26 programme is certainly not indefinitely delayed, our commercial negotiations are progressing well but are not complete.

“The production schedule will be determined by those negotiations and it would undermine the MOD’s commercial position if we commented on the details; this was made clear to the Committee. We are committed to the Type 26 programme and to beginning the build as soon as possible.”

The government said that in accordance with Strategic Defence and Security Review, it will build two Offshore Patrol Vessels on the Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build.

“We have shown our commitment to the Type 26 Programme, awarding contract earlier this year with BAE Systems worth £472 million to extend the Demonstration Phase to June 2017 taking our total investment in this programme so far to over £1.8bn.

“We will also consult with industry and trade unions as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which aims to set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”

Earlier today, SNP defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara MP said it would be “an absolute disgrace” if the Type 26 programme on the Clyde was put into an “indefinite delay”.

He said: “The MoD must now be clear about the level of uncertainty the Type 26 programme faces following comments at the Defence Select Committee today. The new Defence procurement minister could give no assurances on the future of the contract – promised to the Clyde yards – and has once again placed in doubt the future of the programme.”

Mr O’Hara MP has already asked the Defence Secretary if the massive expense of Trident and the recent analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that UK GDP might be reduced by up 3.5% as a result of the Brexit vote would  result in a “black-hole” in the public finances of up to £40 billion in 2020, and what that meant for defence procurement. 

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