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Dreadnought Submarines

Volume 627: debated on Monday 10 July 2017

Thanks to the vote a year ago, the Dreadnought programme to replace the four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines is on schedule. Construction on Dreadnought, the first of her class, commenced as planned in October 2016 at the BAE Systems yard in Barrow-in-Furness.

Certainly if I and the 80% of people who took part in the vote a year ago have anything to do with it, it will be. I gently draw the House’s attention to the fact that both the shadow Defence Secretary and the Leader of the Opposition voted in the opposite Lobby on that day.

Perhaps the right hon. Member for New Forest West (Sir Desmond Swayne) would be good enough to circulate to all parliamentary colleagues his textbook on succinct questions from which they would greatly benefit.

The Dreadnought submarine programme is important to my constituents, many of whom work at the Rolls-Royce Raynesway facility which is building the pressurised water reactors that will go into those submarines. Rolls-Royce has been investing very heavily in the new facility to meet the demands of this programme. When will the Government make a decision?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the fact that companies not just in Barrow-in-Furness but up and down this country are involved in carrying out highly skilled work in this incredibly elaborate programme. I had the pleasure of visiting Raynesway and her nearby constituency and I know how many people in Derby and in Derbyshire depend on that programme. I can assure her that we are making substantial investment in the site.

We were looking forward to discussing this very issue with the Minister during the general election campaign. I do not know what happened to her; perhaps she can come up to see us next time. Will she put the Government’s full support behind our campaign now to raise education standards in the Furness area where, for generations, school leavers have had below average English and maths results, which is simply not good enough if we are to remain on track for the Dreadnought programme?

The hon. Gentleman is very kind to invite me for another visit to his constituency. I shall look forward to it. He rightly raises the important issue of the skills that we need as a country for these highly skilled and important jobs. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), will be very happy to meet him to discuss what we are doing as we ensure that we put in place that pipeline of skills.

I welcome the investment in the Dreadnought-class submarines, which will bring investment to Devonport dockyard in my constituency. Does the Minister agree that we also need to deal with the legacy of current and previous submarines and accelerate the slow pace of the submarine dismantling programme?

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, who is the son of a submariner, on his arrival in this place. It is wonderful to have someone taking such a close interest in the matter. He will be aware that it is the subject of ongoing commercial negotiations. We will keep the House informed.