In December 2018, the Department announced the award of three competitive design phase contracts for the Type 31e frigate programme. It remains our intention to award a single design and build contract for five Type 31e ships by the end of this year. Construction of the Type 26 frigates remains under way, with the second batch of five ships to be ordered in the 2020s.
I thank the Minister for that response. Following the Secretary of State’s recent successful visit to Plymouth, he will know of the south-west’s military shipbuilding capabilities. May I suggest that Plymouth would make a fantastic base for the littoral strike group vessels?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is an absolute champion for his constituency and the south-west. Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport and the south-west of England continue to be vital to the Royal Navy and, as we plan to develop a concept for the littoral strike ship, we will look at how it goes. At the moment, no decision on basing has been made.
Many employees of GE Power in Rugby happen to live in the Warwick and Leamington constituency. Will the Minister update us on what discussions have been had with that company to preserve its quality manufacturing and skills in our country?
I know that, for example, my colleague the Defence Procurement Minister has had several discussions with the constituency MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). Although of course this is very much a matter for the company, the MOD will look to see in what ways we can provide support.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. May I take this opportunity to thank him once again for the valuable contribution he made through his report last year? He made, off the top of my head, some 41 sensible recommendations, and we are looking to address them shortly.
Since the start of the last Labour Government, we have seen a 39% decrease in the number of Royal Navy ships and a 46% decrease in the number of frigates and destroyers. If the Secretary of State wants a carrier in the south Atlantic and one in the South China sea, where is the drumbeat of orders coming from when we have just lost another 150 jobs at our shipyard in Rosyth?
Let us be clear that we are committed to maintaining the numbers of our frigates and destroyers. Indeed, later this year we will see the second of our aircraft carriers come out of Rosyth. Equally, it is this Government who have secured shipbuilding jobs in Scotland all the way through to the 2030s. Indeed, there are probably some apprentices who will work on the Type 26 programme who are yet to be born.