The Scotland Office has issued a firm denial that the Type 26 frigate programme on the Clyde has been “delayed indefinitely”.
The claims come amid news that Type 26 Frigate contract will not be signed until it offers “value for money”. MPs had heard claims the project to build eight Type 26 frigates on the Clyde had been delayed due to the Ministry of Defence’s attempts to save money. It is understood the five Type 31 frigates are unaffected by this.
Manufacturing of the Type 26s was initially expected to start in 2016, confirmation of when the work will begin has still to be announced but we’re told that it’s anticipated that the steel will be cut for the first Type 26 in Q4 of 2017.
According to reports in the media a few months ago, union representatives were told by BAE Systems that a “worst-case scenario” of 800 redundancies was possible if the UK government pulled back from its commitment to the manufacture of frigates on the Clyde.
The defence minister has said the UK government remains “absolutely committed” to building eight Royal Navy frigates on the Clyde. Philip Dunne told the House of Commons “nothing had changed” since the plans were announced last November in a defence spending review.
Mr Dunne said the UK government’s commitment to Scotland and the Royal Navy was “crystal clear”:
“Let me assure the shipyard workers on the Clyde, this government remains absolutely committed to the Type 26 programme and to assembling the ships on the Clyde.”
The original plan for the class had been 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and five general purpose variants, this remains largely unchanged except for the specification of the later five vessels, which has been reduced to make them more affordable.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that all new frigates and additional vessels mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland.
The Scotland Office issued a statement saying:
“The UK Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme. Over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warships and, because Scotland voted to remain part of the UK in 2014, will continue to be an important manufacturing base for them.
The Type 26 programme is certainly not indefinitely delayed, our commercial negotiations are progressing well but are not complete.
The production schedule will be determined by those negotiations and it would undermine the MOD’s commercial position if we commented on the details; this was made clear to the Committee. We are committed to the Type 26 programme and to beginning the build as soon as possible.”
The UK Government said:
“We have shown our commitment to the Type 26 Programme, awarding contract earlier this year with BAE Systems worth £472 million to extend the Demonstration Phase to June 2017 taking our total investment in this programme so far to over £1.8bn. We will also consult with industry and trade unions as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which aims to set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
Earlier today, SNP defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara MP said it would be “an absolute disgrace” if the Type 26 programme on the Clyde was put into an “indefinite delay”.
“The MoD must now be clear about the level of uncertainty the Type 26 programme faces following comments at the Defence Select Committee today. The new Defence procurement minister could give no assurances on the future of the contract – promised to the Clyde yards – and has once again placed in doubt the future of the programme.”