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Fleet Solid Support Ship Contract

Volume 701: debated on Monday 20 September 2021

The final contract for the manufacture of the fleet solid support ships will be awarded to a UK business, either solely or as part of a consortium. We have been clear that a significant proportion of the build work will be carried out in the UK.

In spring, the MOD invited international companies to collaborate with UK firms to build the fleet solid support ship contract. Earlier this year, it awarded a £5 million design contract for the project. I have tried in numerous questions to the Minister to get the answers to these questions, and I have to say to him that his answers should be getting creative writing awards for the ways in which they avoid answering questions. May I ask him a direct question: who are the design contracts with—are they with the consortium or with the individual companies? Secondly, will he confirm that the prime contractor who wins this contract will be a UK company?

We are engaged with the consortium as a whole. I would have to check for the right hon. Gentleman on the finer points of where exactly the contract lies within that consortium, but it is the consortium that is being appointed to conduct the design work and it is the consortium that will be expected to do that work. It is then the consortium that we will be turning to for the next stage. As he knows, four awards have been made and, from memory, they are for £5 million each. They go to each in that consortium, all of which have a UK component, and they will be presenting not only their design but their views on the next stage and the build programme. I will come back on the precise point he makes, as it is a fair question.

It is a bit rich of Labour Members to be nit-picking on this contract, given that the competition that they were calling for, whereby shipyards in the UK were to be required to build these ships, is precisely what the Minister has engineered. Will he confirm to the House that following last week’s outstanding Defence and Security Equipment International exhibition in docklands, where, as he has mentioned, there were further contracts for British shipbuilders, and following the announcement of the establishment of the National Shipbuilding Office and AUKUS, the opportunities for defence shipbuilding in this country have never been greater?

I was so flattered to be awarded the creative writing award by the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) that I was perhaps too kind. There is an awful lot that is great going on in British shipbuilding at the moment. He has been calling for the design contracts to be awarded, and they have been awarded; we are getting on with the fleet solid support ships. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Philip Dunne) says, there is also great news on Type 31. There is a lot of good news in the sector.