The defence and security industrial strategy provides a more flexible approach to determine the right acquisition strategy for any given capability, in line with our priorities and national security requirements. Where tenders are used, they are designed to be fair, open and certainly accessible to domestic contractors.
Wight Shipyard Co. in my constituency recently raised with me its concern about the niche criteria and very short timeframes for the Ministry of Defence’s special purpose ship contract. Will my hon. Friend reassure me that all MOD contracts are fairly given out and fairly tendered to all contractors in the country, including smaller contractors such as Wight Shipyard?
My hon. Friend is an assiduous advocate for the Island and he was right to raise this issue with me before Christmas. I looked into it and have written to him and another hon. Gentleman on the subject. The requirement is for an existing vessel that can enter service very quickly to help the Royal Navy perform, at pace, trials on autonomy and the use of modular persistent operational deployment systems. I am satisfied that the tender for this vessel is fair and open. It has attracted a significant degree of interest from a wide range of suppliers, and they will have to compete along the lines outlined.
The Government are invariably keen to talk up their role in the manufacturing success story of Scottish warship building, and the Minister knows exactly the extraordinary private investment that has been made by BAE on the Clyde and by Babcock at Rosyth, and about the state of the art manufacturing process, equipment and, crucially, apprenticeships. Will he now commit to rewarding that investment by unequivocally ensuring that the fleet solid support ships are built in whole, not in part, in Scottish and, if necessary, other UK yards, and categorically commit to using UK steel?
I think the hon. Gentleman should pay tribute to what this Government are doing in terms of investment in shipbuilding. We are a phenomenal investor in shipbuilding. BAE and Babcock are doing a tremendous job, with a huge number of ships coming through the production line. I am not going to prejudge a tender—that would completely contradict what I said in my previous remarks. However, if only the Scottish Government could take a leaf out of our book in the way in which they work with Ferguson’s, I think we would all be better off as a shipbuilding industry.