The Secretary of State for Defence visited the Clyde last Thursday to witness the completion of the first Type 26 units. This unit will form part of the first ship, HMS Glasgow, which is due to be accepted by the summer of 2025. The Royal Navy will then train and prepare her and she will enter service in 2027. HMS Cardiff, HMS Belfast and the remaining five ships will then follow.
The Minister will know that Sheffield companies have been key to the Royal Navy’s supply chain since we provided the tools to build wooden battleships such as HMS Victory. He will also know that there have been three HMS Sheffields, serving with distinction from the Arctic to the Mediterranean in the second world war, but the last was decommissioned in 2003. Does he agree that it would now be right to recognise the city’s contribution to the Navy by naming one of the Type 26 frigates, “HMS Sheffield”?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. Indeed, he has written on this issue to the Secretary of State. The process by which ships are named is understood by the hon. Gentleman, and I agree entirely that the city of Sheffield has every right to be considered as a potential city to be named after in terms of the Type 26s, but the process will be followed as per the usual manner.
The Minister will be aware that, on Monday, after much talk between Plymouth and Portsmouth, I launched a campaign to have the Type 26s port based in Plymouth. Will he meet me and a leadership team from Plymouth to outline why this key city in the nation’s crown deserves to have the ships port based there?
I would of course be more than delighted to meet my hon. Friend and a delegation from Plymouth. I was very pleased to visit Plymouth and was very impressed with what I saw—for example, the work on the refurbishment of the Type 23—so it would be a pleasure to meet that delegation from the great city of Plymouth.
Given that the Type 26s are currently being built by the greatest shipbuilders in the world, at the Govan shipyard, will the Minister also confirm the timetable for the Type 31 frigate and whether that will be built in Govan, too?
The Type 31 process is well under way. We are pleased with the number of consortia that have shown an interest in the Type 31, and I hope that the Clyde shipbuilders will be putting in a very good price, which will ensure that the Type 31 will be delivered on time and on schedule.
If we are to have an HMS Sheffield, we must certainly have an HMS Goole, because we are, after all, a port. More importantly, with Australia and Canada both likely to make decisions on the Type 26 this year—in the coming weeks or months—does my hon. Friend agree that getting those contracts will ensure we have sea-to-sea-to-sea interoperability? Does he also agree that having four of the “Five Eyes” powers on the same platform—New Zealand might also get it—would send a powerful message?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The Type 26 presents us with an important opportunity for partnership working with Australia, Canada and perhaps New Zealand. The campaign in Australia has been strong, positive and upbeat, and I sincerely hope it will be successful.