DEFENCE Secretary Michael Fallon has guaranteed the UK’s next generation of frigates will be built on the Clyde after concern the contract might go abroad.
His assurance during defence questions came as the Ministry of Defence announced the process of turning the Clyde into the UK’s only submarine base had begun.
Two of the Royal Navy’s Trafalgar Class submarines, which are nuclear-powered, will be moved to the Clyde naval base from their current site in Plymouth, the Defence Secretary has confirmed.
With the MoD in dispute with contractor BAE Systems over the £4 billion contract for the type 26 Frigates, Mr Fallon yesterday came under pressure to guarantee that the work would go to Scotland as promised during the independence referendum.
Concerns had been raised after First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas suggested the ships could be built abroad for the first time in UK history outside the world wars. 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.”
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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.”
The frigates contract is vital to maintain the historic shipbuilding industry in Scotland and supports thousands of jobs.
And over the weekend there were further concerns about what the MoD might do after it refused to publish the Commercial Principles Agreement with BAE.
But challenged on the issue during defence questions Mr Fallon said: “Let me take the opportunity absolutely to reinforce the point [that] UK warships are built only in UK yards.”
Referring to the fact the only yards are now on the Clyde, he added: “I do not think I can make the position on the Clyde any clearer.”
And on concerns over the contract negotiations, he added: “I hope that we can make some early decisions, at least on some of the longer lead items that feed into the Type 26 programme, in the very near future.”
In a further announcement to support jobs on the Clyde he announced that HMS Talent and HMS Triumph will be at the Faslane base by 2020.
The other two vessels in the class, HMS Torbay and HMS Trenchant, are to remain at Devonport until they are decommissioned in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
The move means the Scottish base will be home to all of the UK’s submarines. It is another step towards Clyde becoming the Royal Navy’s Submarine Centre of Specialisation, according to the Ministry of Defence.
Mr Fallon said: “This decision balances the Royal Navy’s operational requirements with giving more clarity to our servicemen and women to plan their family lives.
“HMS Torbay and HMS Trenchant crews and their families now have certainty that Devonport will be their home port until the boats decommission. We expect that local communities will welcome HMS Talent and HMS Triumph and their crews and families when they arrive in Scotland later this decade.
“Our commitment to Faslane becoming home to all Royal Navy submarines from 2020 will bring hundreds of jobs and investment to the west of Scotland.”
Commodore Mark Adams, Naval Base Commander Clyde, said: “Several years of hard work have already gone into preparing HMNB Clyde to be the home of the UK Submarine Service.
“The base regularly successfully hosts Trafalgar Class submarines for both routine visits and to undertake periods of extended maintenance and we are delighted to welcome HMS Talent and HMS Triumph on their move from Devonport.
“HMNB Clyde and the surrounding Argyll and Bute communities are renowned for their hospitality so the crews and their families can be assured of a warm welcome.”
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