The comments were made in a discussion regarding the currently suspended competition to build the future Fleet Solid Support Ships, seemingly endorsing keeping the building of these ships in the UK.
Kevan Jones. MP for North Durham, said here:
“The RFA Fort Victoria will supply our carrier battle group until 2028. Most commentators say that that ship alone is not sufficient to support the carrier group. When will the Secretary of State bring forward the procurement of the fleet solid support ships? That would not only increase capability for the Royal Navy but be a big boost to UK plc, including the supply chain in the north-east of England, if that procurement were to be placed in UK yards.”
Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, responded:
“The right hon. Member often campaigns for shipbuilding in the UK and he has heard my answers. First, I am keen that it gets under way as soon as possible; indeed, I have asked officials to bring it forward from the proposed date. The plus side is that such ships are not highly complex, so once the competition happens and it is placed, I do not think it will take long to build them. I therefore do not anticipate a capability gap at all. He is right that British shipbuilding and British yards produce some of the best ships in the world and we should support them as best as we can and ensure our navy gets some great British-made kit.“
This comes after the £1.5bn competition to build up to three Fleet Solid Support Ships was suspended, an update is due before the end of this year.
It is understood that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace halted the competitive tendering process because bidders were “not compliant” with cost.
The Ministry of Defence also recently provided an update on progress on various projects, this was done as a response from the Ministry of Defence to follow-up questions to the Defence Secretary following a session of the Defence Committee on the 23rd April.
A statement regarding the suspended Fleet Solid Support Ships competition reads as follows:
“Following the decision taken to cancel the competition in November 2019, the MOD has been considering the most appropriate way forward for the Fleet Solid Support ships, looking at all aspects of the programme, including the requirement, procurement approach, market analysis and platform options. This work is complex and also needs to consider wider reviews underway across the Department and Government, as well as any impact of Covid-19, all of which may impact on the timeframe for re-starting the competition.
We will therefore take the necessary time to ensure all of these aspects are thoroughly reviewed and considered before we restart the competition. Until this work has completed it is too early to speculate where these ships may be built or how the future procurement will be run. We expect to provide an update on progress in the Autumn.”
The National Audit Office recently released a report titled ‘Carrier Strike – Preparing for deployment’, the report examines the MoD’s management of the programme since 2017 and the risks towards achieving Carrier Strike’s full capabilities, delays to the Fleet Solid Support Ship programme of between 18-36 months are posing risks to regenerating UK carrier strike capability say the NAO, you can read more about that here.
The Ministry of Defence earlier said in a statement:
“It is clear that the current approach will not deliver the requirement. We are now considering the most appropriate way forward for the procurement project.”
Time will tell if we’re correct.