Sir Michael Fallon at BAE Systems

Sir Michael Fallon: likely to go for competition

Clyde shipbuilders are likely to face competition for the next generation of warships in new plans to be unveiled by Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.

The Ministry of Defence is expected to give the go-ahead to a new class of vessel when it publishes a long-delayed national shipbuilding strategy on Thursday.

Sir Michael will launch a competition to build the new Type 31e frigate which will see BAE Systems and Babcock International battle against each other to win the contract.

The vessels will each cost between £250m and £350m and by opening up the contract to competition Sir Michael is said to be responding to recommendations by industrialist Sir John Parker last year on how to sustain what remains of Britain’s naval shipbuilding.

Impression of Type 31 frigate

Impression of Type 31 frigate

The former boss of Belfast shipyard Harland and Wolff recommended cut-price warship be offered to other yards in the UK, including those operated by Babcock International, rather than concentrate work with BAE on the Clyde.

This plan, however, is likely to fuel suspicions that the UK government is backtracking on earlier commitments to the Clyde shipyard workers.

In July Sir Michael pushed a button to start production of the first of three Type 26 global combat ships for the Royal Navy which he named Glasgow.

The contract is worth £3.7 billion and builds on work already under way to construct five River Class offshore patrol vessels and provides a foundation for two decades of shipbuilding in Scotland, securing more than 4,000 jobs.

Douglas Chapman, SNP spokesperson for Defence Procurement, said at the July launch that it was hoped the national shipbuilding strategy, due last year, would help bring security and clarity to the future of naval shipbuilding on the Clyde and at Rosyth.

He said the Type 31e is a key component in guaranteeing a steady stream of work for Scottish shipbuilding.