Ministers have been urged to clarify how much of a £1.6 billion contract to build support ships for the Royal Navy will be carried out in Spain due to concerns that nearly half of the work could be performed there.
Last week, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace selected the Team Resolute consortium, which includes the Spanish shipbuilding company Navantia, as the preferred bidder for the construction of three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels.
The three 708-foot Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships will be assembled at Harland and Wolff’s Belfast facility, while Devon and Scotland will construct additional components.
Work on the vessels would also be performed in Navantia’s shipyard in Cadiz, in southern Spain, a move that Mr. Wallace said would ‘bolster knowledge transfer and essential capabilities from a world-renowned shipbuilder, crucial for the modernisation of British shipyards’
John Wood, the CEO of H&W, has stated that at least 60 percent of the work will be performed in the United Kingdom.
However, ministers have been more circumspect, with the Ministry of Defence only committing to a “majority” of work being performed in the United Kingdom.
Last week, Armed Forces Minister Alex Chalk stated, “The precise balance of work between each individual yard is a matter for Harland & Wolff,” adding, “The number of jobs sustained in Spain to deliver the Fleet Solid Support ships is a matter for the contractor, but it will be less than the number of jobs sustained and created in the United Kingdom.”
John Healey, the shadow defense secretary, accused the minister of potentially “backtracking on vows to investment and jobs.”
Ministers might have eliminated any uncertainty by constructing these ships exclusively in the United Kingdom, as Labour would.
In response to MailOnline’s request for a more precise breakdown of activity between the United Kingdom and Spain, the Ministry of Defense directed us to its original statement.
The Bath-based BMT will construct the vessels according to a British design as part of the Team Resolute partnership alongside Navantia UK and H&W.
When the contract for the last set of four support ships was awarded to a South Korean shipyard in 2012, it was strongly criticized.
The opposition has also expressed worry regarding the amount of defense contracts awarded to small enterprises in the United Kingdom.
They claim that only one pound out of every twenty spent on defense goes to enterprises with fewer than 250 employees and an annual revenue of less than £50 million, despite the fact that these firms make up 97% of the industry in Britain.
The south of England received 54% of the slightly under £1 billion spent on SMEs in 2020/21, according to government data.
In 2020/21, UK MOD expenditures with small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) were just under £1 billion.
The South of England received the largest expenditure, accounting for 54% of the overall expenditure on SMEs.
Last week, Mr. Chalk attempted to court SMBs by proclaiming at the Make UK Defence Summit in Birmingham that he is a fervent supporter of small businesses.
“I feel it is in your best interest and the nation’s best interest that you receive a fair shot when it comes to defense procurement,” he said, citing the work of a crew upgrading Boeing 737s into E-7 airborne early warning aircraft at the city’s airport.
“As the Chancellor made clear in his financial statement last week, we must offer the greatest value for our money; we must, so to say, deliver the greatest bang for our buck.
“Consequently, your role as suppliers to our armed forces is more crucial than ever. Not only in keeping our forces supplied with everything they require, not only in providing the innovation, technology, and cutting-edge capability that keeps us ahead of our adversaries, but also in bolstering the entire sector so that no matter what happens, our nation is prepared to respond when the time comes.’