Rishi Sunak declares ‘critical national endeavour’ to secure UK nuclear industry’s future

The Prime Minister’s announcement comes amid concerns over defence spending.

Rishi Sunak is set to declare a “critical national endeavour” to secure the future of the UK’s nuclear industry with a package of investment aimed at boosting skills and jobs amid concerns about defence spending.

The Prime Minister will tout a new fund backed by £20 million in public money to support growth in Barrow-in-Furness, the Cumbrian town that is home to the Astute class submarines and Dreadnought programme.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mr Sunak will also commit to a further £180 million a year over the next decade, which Downing Street says would provide grants to local organisations and improvements to transport and health outcomes in the area.

Number 10 hopes new funding will create more than 8,000 career opportunities to help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.Number 10 hopes new funding will create more than 8,000 career opportunities to help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.
Number 10 hopes new funding will create more than 8,000 career opportunities to help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.

Ahead of a visit to Barrow-in-Furness today, the Prime Minister said: “Safeguarding the future of our nuclear deterrent and nuclear energy industry is a critical national endeavour.

“In a more dangerous and contested world, the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is more vital than ever. And nuclear delivers cheaper, cleaner home-grown energy for consumers.

“That’s why we are investing in Barrow, the home of UK submarines, and in the jobs and skills of the future in the thriving British nuclear industry.

“Today we usher in the next generation of our nuclear enterprise, which will keep us safe, keep our energy secure, and keep our bills down for good.”

Industry leaders including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock are partnering with the government to invest around £763 million in skills, jobs and education.

Number 10 hopes the money will create more than 8,000 career opportunities to help the sector fill 40,000 new roles by the end of the decade.

Today will see the UK government bring its Defence Nuclear Enterprise Command Paper, which it claims will set out for the first time the full breadth of activity aimed at sustaining and modernising Britain’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The announcement follows weeks of criticism over the government’s resistance to calls for an increase in defence spending amid concerns about the global risk posed by countries like Russia and China.

In a visible sign of unease within the Tory ranks, Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and security minister Tom Tugendhat earlier this month said a “much greater pace” of investment was needed.

Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has said he wants a “bigger budget” and called for military spending to be increased to 3 per cent of GDP.

There was no new money for defence in the spring Budget, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying “our spending will rise to 2.5 per cent (of GDP) as soon as economic conditions allow”, but not detailing how that would happen.

That decision has drawn criticism from some quarters, including former service chiefs who have argued that funding should be based on the threat to national security rather than the financial climate.

Mr Sunak has said the government has already announced the largest sustained increase in defence spending since the Cold War and “recently topped up with billions of pounds to strengthen our nuclear enterprise and rebuild stockpiles”.

The Barrow Transformation Fund will be managed by the Barrow Delivery Board in collaboration with local leaders, who will allocate funding to areas of greatest need, Downing Street said.

Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive, said: “Barrow is at the heart of the UK’s submarine enterprise and as the custodian of our submarine design and build capability, we’re incredibly proud of the role we play in the Astute, Dreadnought and now SSN-AUKUS programmes.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Rolls-Royce Submarines president Steve Carlier said the announcement showed the UK is “going to go even further in its mission to meet the growing demand for nuclear expertise”.

As part of his visit, the Prime Minister is expected to meet apprentices working on the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will travel to North Wales to renew the party’s commitment to a publicly owned clean energy company that it says could “get (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s boot off our throat”.

On his first joint visit with new Welsh First Minister Vaughan Gething, he will pledge to “turbocharge jobs and growth” for Wales with GB Energy, a plan to boost homegrown green power including wind farms and carbon capture.

Ahead of the trip today, Sir Keir said: “In an increasingly insecure world, with tyrants using energy as an economic weapon, Britain must take back control of our national energy security.

“After 14 years of a Tory Government kowtowing to fossil fuel dictators, Labour’s plan for energy independence would get Putin’s boot off our throat and power up communities across Britain.”

SNP defence spokesman Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said: “Westminster has already wasted billions of taxpayers’ money on nuclear weapons and expensive nuclear energy. It is grotesque to throw another £200m down the drain when the Tories and Labour Party both claim there is no money to improve our NHS, to help families with the cost of living or to properly invest in our green energy future.“This money would be much better spent on a raft of other priorities - not least investing in the green energy gold rush, which would ensure Scotland, with its wealth of renewable energy potential, can be a green energy powerhouse of the 21st century.”He added: “The urgent priority is more money for conventional defence and for our armed forces, who are underpaid and under-resourced.“With both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer focused on the wrong priorities - it is only the SNP standing up for Scotland's interests and Scotland's values.”



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.