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Type 26 Frigates

Volume 600: debated on Monday 19 October 2015

9. What progress his Department has made on procuring Type 26 frigates; and if he will make a statement. (901600)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, in February this year we awarded a contract for the demonstration phase of the Type 26 programme, which was valued at £859 million and brings into force some of the long-lead items for the programme, including Rolls-Royce engines, the first of which will be delivered in the next month or so. Progress continues on commencing the manufacturing phase next year. I was pleased that the hon. Gentleman could witness our commitment to shipbuilding on the Clyde when I cut steel for the third offshore patrol vessel in Govan earlier this month.

The Minister noted my constituency interest and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan) in the Clyde shipyard. Does he accept the concerns of shipyard workers and the trade union representatives on the Clyde who seek a speedier and stronger commitment from the Government? Will he meet me, my hon. Friend, and trade union representatives to ensure that there are no gaps in the order book and that jobs are maintained in this iconic industry?

I was pleased to meet local conveners when I was in the yard in Govan earlier this month, and I would be happy to meet them again if the hon. Gentleman chose to bring them to Parliament any time soon.

The Government have brought us aircraft carriers without aircraft, but even for them, warships without sailors would be going a bit too far. Can the Minister outline how the personnel requirements for the new Type 26 will be met? Will there be a reliance, as we have recently seen in the press, on overseas recruits to fill those capability gaps?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Type 26 global combat ship programme is designed to replace the existing frigate fleet—the Type 23. We generally find when updating naval capability that ships with more power and capability can be manned with fewer men, so we do not see any particular challenge with this programme, apart from the natural challenge of recruiting to the armed forces during periods of economic growth.