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British Shipbuilding Support

Volume 683: debated on Monday 2 November 2020

As shipbuilding tsar, I am working with Cabinet colleagues to supercharge the British shipbuilding industry. Driven by the ministerial shipbuilding working group, in the past 12 months the Government have signed the contract for five Type 31 vessels to be built in Rosyth, developed a maritime enterprise export plan to pursue export opportunities that will hopefully deliver state-of-the-art British ships to our global allies, and launched a major analysis of the skills required in the broader maritime sector through the Maritime Skills Commission.

My father worked as a shipwright at Smith’s dock on Teesside, and I know that the UK has a proud history as one of the greatest shipbuilding nations in the world. As we leave the EU, may I ask my right hon. Friend what steps he is taking to ensure that all parts of the UK benefit from shipbuilding opportunities supporting the military?

The Government’s ambitious shipbuilding agenda is reinvigorating this industry, including where my hon. Friend’s father worked. We are working to review old yards, to diversify the industry’s portfolio to promote smaller innovative vessels, and to strengthen the national supply chain, which underpins this. We will support tens of thousands of jobs across the UK, securing benefits for every corner of the Union and bringing shipbuilding back home to the UK. We are intending to use as many of our defence contracts as possible to incentivise investment by the owners of yards and, indeed, to invest in the workforces.

Will the Secretary of State heed the pleas of his Back Benchers and listen to the shadow Secretary of State’s recent “Built in Britain” strategy for the defence industry?  I reiterate: follow the shadow Secretary of State’s strategy to ensure that the UK engineering and manufacturing industry endures the covid recession; invest in British engineering and manufacturing, in British people and in the British economy.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because I agree with everything he said; that is what we have been doing. We will invest, where we can, in UK equipment. We also sometimes have to balance the urgent operational need of our service personnel: if there is something they need now or in the very short term and we simply do not have the capability to deliver it, we will sometimes have to look where we can to get them the best equipment. There is always a fine balance between making sure our forces have the very best at the very moment and long-term investment. I am determined that we invest both in the people who use our equipment in the MOD and in our industry as far as possible across the board.