Lesley Laird MP joined Jeremy Corbyn in Govan today to demand the UK government to build three new Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels in British shipyards.
The call comes as the UK Government prepares to put a £1 billion contract for building the ships out to international tender.
Lesley Laird said: “Just over a year ago Theresa May stood in front of an RAF helicopter and promised a ‘red,white and blue’ Brexit.
“If that’s the case, the government should be using its power in the procurement process to support UK yards and ensure a steady drum beat of orders over the long term.
“Instead this government seems hell-bent on a bargain basement approach and all the socio-economic consequences that brings: redundancies, loss of skills and a continuing dissolution of Britain’s shipbuilding industry; a decline second only in scale to the collapse of the deep cast coal mining industry.”
Under Article 346 of the Lisbon Treaty, member states have almost unlimited freedom of action over defence procurement – and they do, but the Tories choose not to.
These vessels are operated by the civilian RFA but are equipped with weapons and exposed to hostile risk. RFA Sir Galahad, for example, was destroyed with 48 lives lost during the Falklands War.
Lesley commented: “Other countries heavily subsidise their shipbuilding industry, with South Korea bailed out to the tune of £2 billion last year. The also insist any outside contracts have local content and employment built in.
“This is not a level playing field for UK shipbuilding. But here we have the UK government happily capitalises on these artificial price reductions by offering up MOD contracts. which then effectively runs down our capability and skills.
“But at what cost? We run down our skills and our capability. We stop creating apprenticeships and we lose the long term big picture benefit of an island nation having our own shipbuilding industry. Because once those skill are gone we do not get them back.
This £1bn contract gives us the opportunity to return £285m back to the Treasury through taxation, and national insurance contributions – not to forget the money it puts back into the local community and economy.
She added: “As a child of the Clyde – born and brought up in Port Glasgow and Greenock I know only too well what happens when Tory Governments take decisions based on a bargain-basement mentality.
“Driving through Port Glasgow and Greenock today is a very different landscape to the one I grew up with where traffic stopped when the yards finished at the end of the working day and thousands of workers poured out into their communities.
“Highly skilled workers building world-class ships and spending their money in local shops and businesses.”
She added: “I’m now woman of the Forth living a stones throw from Rosyth and I sit waiting to join the traffic in the rush-hour, but when I get frustrated I stop and smile because the fact the road is busy and all traffic is heading to Rosyth means there are ships to be built and people in employment, money in the local economy and that is a good thing.
“But not if your Conservative Government is waving a white flag and selling out our shipbuilding heritage”
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