THE Ministry of Defence is under pressure to “come clean” over its agreement with contractor BAe after ministers refused to publish key documents which would outline whether shipbuilding work is still guaranteed for the Clyde.
The concerns have been raised after the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, warned that Britain’s next generation of frigates could be built in France.
Such a move would renege on a pledge made by UK ministers ahead of the Scottish independence referendum that the new Type 26 frigates would be built on the Clyde in the event of a No vote, but not if Scots voted Yes, as Britain does not build warships abroad.
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But with BAe and the MoD in the middle of a row over the cost of the Type 26 frigates, Zambellas suggested the contract could go abroad.
He said: “The acquisition process looks for a solution to give us what we need. The affordability question… depends on the best that industry can deliver.”
He added: “You’ll notice I haven’t necessarily said that that’s the British industry, as the decision has not been made on what the solution to the requirement will be.”
While ministers tried to play down his comments, they have refused to publish the commercial principles agreement (CoPA) between BAe and the MoD. CoPA’s predecessor, the Terms of Business Agreement (ToBA), was published and contained guarantees for work at BAe’s shipyards, now down to two on the Clyde – Govan and Scotstoun.
But the SNP has pointed out after CoPA was signed on 6 November the MoD has refused to say whether the guarantee is still in place.
Procurement minister Philip Dunne said its publication would prejudice the MoD’s commercial interests. But SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson described the refusal to publish as “unacceptable”. He insisted the MoD “needs to come clean and be absolutely clear” about its plans for naval shipbuilding in Scotland.
However, a spokesman for Defence Secretary Michael Fallon accused the SNP of “desperate scaremongering”.
He said: “As the Defence Secretary has made very clear, complex UK warships are only built in UK shipyards.
“While this contract has not yet been awarded, we have also been clear that from 2015 the Clyde will be the UK’s only shipyard that builds complex warships.
“We can’t be much clearer than that.”
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