The Type 26 global combat ship is the next major investment for the Royal Navy, following the new destroyers, the new aircraft carriers and, more recently, the offshore patrol vessels. The programme is still in its assessment phase. We want to learn the lessons from previous multi-billion pound contracts to ensure proper value for the Navy and the taxpayer, so we are currently working with BAE Systems to gain greater granularity for the programme, for example in relation to detailed ship design, the supply chain and the contracting structure.
I welcome the Minister’s confirmation of an imminent decision on the Type 26 frigates. In an uncertain world, I believe that they have an important contribution to make on the high seas. Does he agree that Type 26 frigates named after cities would reinforce the Royal Navy’s community links? Should those on the ship naming committee recognise that, does he believe that they will weigh carefully the 360-year history with the city of Gloucester through the 11 previous Fighting Gs?
As for every new class of Royal Navy warship, the naming of the Type 26 frigates will follow a theme. My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that he is not alone in seeking to advance the cause of UK cities. He is also not the first to make such strong representations in favour of Gloucester, the city he so forcefully represents. I will ask the Ships’ Names and Badges Committee to note his interest in attempting to revive the name HMS Gloucester, given its impressive heritage.
The Minister said that we will learn lessons from previous programmes. Can he assure me that the mistakes of the Type 45, which set out wishing to be an international project with a big export market, but ended up as a magnificent but very expensive ship, will not be repeated? Will the Type 26 be kept affordable in the global market?
This is part of the rigorous work that we are doing at the moment to ensure that the Type 26 design is modular to allow for regular upgrading as systems improvements take place over the decades to come. As my hon. Friend knows from his work in the Ministry of Defence, we have had a number of engagements with other international navies to see whether they might be interested. While it is likely that the interest will be more in systems than in platforms, we are taking that work forward continuously.