Navy warship work “should be distributed” across the UK

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Navy warship work “should be distributed” across the UK

Image caption
A Type 26 frigate of the class which from next summer will be built on Clydeside

Work on warships should be shared among companies across the UK, a review of Royal Navy shipbuilding will recommend.

Sir John Parker, who carried out the review, says it would cut construction time and spread prosperity.

He wants to see a new fleet of Type 31 naval frigates built in a “competitive way” by distributing the building work across the UK.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the approach had been a success in building new aircraft carriers.

Sir John, chairman of mining giant Anglo American, was tasked with examining how the British naval shipbuilding industry could be kept sustainable while increasing exports.

Earlier this month, the defence secretary announced that eight larger Type 26 frigates would be built by BAE on Clydeside from next summer.

But he has not confirmed whether eight smaller, general purpose Type 31 frigates will be built there.

Sir John said his report recognised the engineering and technical skills that reside in BAE and has recommended that the Type 26 frigate be placed there.

However, he told BBC Radio 4″s Today programme: “On the Type 31, the new frigate, we want to see that built in the most competitive way, and I think our investigation shows that probably the lowest cost and the fastest time of build can be done by building it in a distributed way across the country and also, of course, distribute prosperity and highly skilled jobs.”

“Working together”

Sir John, a former chairman of Belfast-based Harland and Wolff shipbuilding group, said distributing work to several locations reduces the “cycle time of actual construction” which was a “very important part of competitiveness”.

Ahead of the publication of his report later on Tuesday, the defence secretary said Sir John had provided a “fundamental reappraisal of how we undertake shipbuilding in the UK”.

He said: “Taking lessons from our world-class automotive industry and other sectors, it sets the foundations for an innovative and competitive sector capable of meeting the country”s future defence and security needs.”

BAE”s modular construction of sections for the UK”s two new aircraft carriers “demonstrated the success of such an approach, with multiple shipyards and hundreds of companies across UK working together”, the defence secretary continued.

And he said that while there was already a “vibrant” shipbuilding sector in Scotland, there were significant export opportunities ripe for exploitation, especially after Brexit.

Last week a report from the defence select committee warned that Britain”s defences were at risk amid uncertainty over plans to replace the “woefully low” number of Royal Navy warships.

The Royal Navy currently has 19 frigates and destroyers but the MPs said that number could fall unless a clear timetable is set out for replacing older vessels.

The government will publish its formal response to Sir John”s report in the spring.

Royal Navy warships – numbers since 1985
Year Aircraft carriers Assault ships Frigates Destroyers
1985 4 2 41 15
1995 3 2 23 12
2005 3 3 19 9
2016 0 3 13 6
Source: Defence Select Committee report