MP urges Defence Secretary to protect UK shipbuilding industry

Lesley Laird MP has urged the new UK Defence Secretary to guarantee the £1bn Fleet Solid Support Ships contract will be built in Britain.

The letter to Penny Mordaunt MP follows Lesley Laird’s recent tour of HMS Prince of Wales – due to be commissioned next year – at Rosyth Dockyard.

The MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath wrote: “I saw first-hand the standard of work carried out at the yard and the professionalism of the workers there. Each and every one of them takes great pride in their work and wishes to keep alive our fantastic British tradition of being the finest shipbuilders in the world.

“I fear that if your government does not award the FSSS contract to British yards, we will lose forever the outstanding skills we currently have.  Retaining that world-class capability starts by ensuring a sustained pipeline of work; fundamental to attracting and retaining the skills and talent this industry needs.”

The FSSS contract, due to be awarded next year, has been put to tender internationally because the ships are not classified as warships.

However, the GMB union maintains the FSSS contract could support up to 16,000 jobs in the UK.

Five bidders were originally selected to compete:  The British consortium of Babcock, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce (Team UK), while the international bidders were Fincantieri (Italy), Navantia (Spain), Japan Marine United Corporation, and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (South Korea).

Fincantieri and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering have now withdrawn, according to the Financial Times.

Lesley said: “Recently, we have seen the workforce at Rosyth reduce due to a lack of certainty as to whether they would be successful in their bid for the Fleet Solid Support contracts. This comes amidst job losses at Appledore and Cammell Laird, while Harland and Woolf has been put up for sale.

“Only last week an all-party Government committee published a report saying all of the evidence points to the fact that this government’s current position is completely unsustainable and is hurting communities the length and breadth of the UK, while also undermining our strategic and competitive advantage in the shipbuilding and marine sector.”

Lesley added: “Failure to [award FSSS to the UK], would not just destroy our great history of being a shipbuilding nation, but it would destroy the lives of so many families and communities who rely on that work and are proud to associate themselves as being part of this country’s shipbuilding community.”