Union says its time to commit to new Type 31 frigates and support vessels as HMS Queen Elizabeth goes to sea and still no sign of National Shipbuilding Strategy

GMB, the union for shipbuilders, says now is the time for the Government to commit to new Royal Navy Type 31 frigates and RFA support vessels and the HMS Queen Elizabeth sets sail.

Earlier this year Sir John Parker urged UK ministers to start work on a new warship, the Type 31, arguing construction should be built and shared among UK yards in an alliance similar to the work on the aircraft carrier.

The UK Government had been due to give its official response on the Parker Report but it was delayed until shortly after the General Election. That time has now passed.

However GMB say the time is right for ‘a clear commitment on jobs in the shipbuilding sector’.

Ross Murdoch, GMB National Officer for Manufacturing and acting CSEU chair, said:

“Once again shipbuilding workers in the UK have demonstrated what a world class workforce they are. Now that the general election is out of the way, it’s time to reassure shipbuilding workers across all UK shipyards.

The Government must announce its decision, in line with the Parker Report, on the construction of the Type 31 Frigates. At the same time we again call for the Government to commit to building new Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships in UK shipyards to secure much needed jobs.”

However in November 2015, after confirming that the Type 26 Frigate would be built on the Clyde, Michael Fallon also indicated that the Type 31 Frigate will be assembled there too.

Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland:

“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships.

After that, the Clyde will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”

It’s understood that the build plan for the Type 31 Frigate will follow a similar pattern to that of the Queen Elizabeth carriers and early Type 45 Destroyers in that blocks will be built in yards around the UK and assembled on the Clyde.

A MoD spokesperson responded with what is seemingly a place-holder type response:

“The 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.

As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new Offshore Patrol Vessels on the Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build. We will also consult with Industry and Trade Unions as part of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which will set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”

There is still no sign of Type 31 or the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Possibly a silly newbie question this, but if (as previously reported) two companies have been asked to tender for 6 Type 31 frigates then surely that tender process has already mandated where the ships will be built? If not then how can they cost the project?

  2. Hey Rob. I thint it must be on the understanding that they will be built in blocks at various yards and then assembled in one place just like CVF. It says as much in the fifth from bottom paragraph of the above article. That would make sense if we are building types 26 & 31 concurrently (which we should) but I wouldn’t rule out some crap like BAE getting the contract to build Avenger or Cutlass after Type 26 at the one location (Clyde). If that turns out to be the case we are bang in trouble as escort numbers will drop even further as Type 23s wear out faster than the Clyde yard can replace them. Hopefully that won’t happen as I think there is a general agreement and understanding that escort numbers are already to low.

    • Please not the Cutlass or Avenger. From everything I have read the Venator design is the favoured option, with Spartan a possibility. I really hope its the Venator as its design is more mature so should be able to go into production earlier – we can only hope!

      My point above was really that the article makes it sound if no decisions have been made by HMG but they must have done internally in order for the tender process to start. Lets hope it is the modular build process and that they get on with it soon.

      • Why can’t we build 26 & 31’s concurrently? Such a plan would allow the RN to man and operate both types, possibly improving trial and training, plus overall costs?

  3. I opened up this article hoping for some real news, finally, on this most important project. Hopes dashed, same old story of no commitment, timescale or set plan. Looks like we will be having a problem in the near future as unless type 26 and type 31 are built concurrently and to a drum beat of at least 1 ship per year as of 2020 onwards, we will be seeing a reduction on the pitiful numbers of escort warships the RN currently has. This is due to type 23s being retired 1 ship per year.
    I actually aspire for more than this however for the RN and think 1 ship per year must be our long-term plan. With an attack sub every 2-3 years from 2020 onwards to stabilise force level at about 12-15 SSNs.
    As an island nation it beggars belief that we cannot afford to fund an adequate number of type 26s and type 31s to bring the surface fleet back to the required minimum of 26 escort hulls (of destroyer and frigate class) if we cannot afford to do this and order more astutes can we please stop sending £13 billion a year abroad as foreign aid. Or give an additional £1.5 billion to northern Ireland to say thanks to the 13 DUP MPs who are now propping up an ever more unpopular and out of touch government.
    surely enough is enough, we have done cuts and austerity since 2008 and look where it has got us. Nowhere. Now lets raise taxes and invest and spend. See if that gets the country out of the malaise and mess it is in. Shipbuilding has, with the pound dropping in value, never been more commercially viable in the UK.
    We just need a long term plan and clear commitment to ongoing continuous building.

    • I haven’t heard anyone talk so much sense in a while. I’m also a believer in a small, relatively inexpensive fleet of diesel electric subs. They are so quiet that they could quite easily be the main anti-ship force that Britain would have, without the need for highly expensive nuclear subs that are too noisy to be good anti-ship vessels. Small and inexpensive, I think that they would fill the gap left by the absence of anti-ship missiles, as Perseus is bound to see delays, as any example of new technology sees.

    • Mr Bell – I was totally with you until I got to:
      “Or give an additional £1.5 billion to northern Ireland to say thanks to the 13 DUP MPs who are now propping up an ever more unpopular and out of touch government.
      surely enough is enough, we have done cuts and austerity since 2008 and look where it has got us. Nowhere.”
      You let your leftie pink slip show their mate! Firstly the DUP have 10 MPs not 13. Its not £1.5 Bn. Its £400m for infrastructure development, £150m for ultra-fast broadband rollout and £200m for health and money to tackle deprivation and mental health from 30 years of IRA terrorism that was not experienced elsewhere in the UK to the same extent. The total package of additional spending adds up to around £1bn. (According to the Independent of 3 days ago).

      As for the Government being ‘unpopular’ they did actually increase their share of the popular vote, took the biggest share of that vote, won the most seats and defeated Labour by some 22% – 55 more seats. So if the Tories are ‘unpopular’ how totally despised must Labour be?

      As I mention elsewhere what you Lefties call ‘austerity’ some of us call managing within our means. Which Labour clearly failed to do in their 13 years of power. And where it got us was sound finances, decent Yields on our GILTs and an annual deficit that is now some £54 Bn against the £150 Bn Labour bequeathed to the nation. Greece knows what ‘austerity’ is and they have youth unemployment at 50%. Go there and see what that actually means. Here we have full employment, solid growth and even manage to take care of 3 million EU migrants as well. We have had Labour economics before and Corbynomics are 10 times worse. We must never go back to the ‘spend and borrow’ that Brown told us would end ‘boom and bust’. He boomed and we busted!

  4. What the country really needs is an effective patrol boat squadron to defend the coasts and deal with any terror threats. Aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates are expensive white elephants. Its time the country stopped spending on vanity projects and bought in the defence we can afford and which is relevant.

        • Seen them both – the upshot of using ‘austerity’ to slam a recovering economy into reverse in 2010. Invest, and stop cutting taxes for the already rich, and aggressively pursue corporations who make their money here but pretend their based in places like Luxembourg to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

          • HF – Please stop with Corbynomics. This country was in a near bankrupt situation in 2009 and the incoming coalition in 2010 had to re-establish our creditworthiness with the markets and get our finances in some sort of order. They inherited a massive annual deficit that had to be reduced and that meant starting to live within our means. And as we are on Defence there was a certain £35 Bn black hole in THAT budget that had to be filled as well. Its why the Government had to choose between Harrier or Tornado and scrapping our two remaining small carriers (Labour decommissioned Invincible in 2005). And yes nearly cancelling the two new carriers. Frankly we were in real shit.

            What the Left call ‘austerity’ is actually what every family tries to do and that is manage your affairs within your income.

            The economy was not put in reverse it was stabilised and set forward on a different path of reducing the PSBR. What the Left call ‘investing’ means ‘keep borrowing more’. And in 2010 we couldn’t be seen to be ‘borrowing more’.

            As for the old chestnut of ‘tax cuts for the rich’ I guess you forgot Labour taxed their wealthy friends @ 40% for 13 years until 2009 and then bunged it up to 50% for the 2010 election! It is now 45% and so 12.5% higher than Labour managed. And you won’t have noticed that the top 1% pay twice as much tax revenue as the poorest 50%? Or that they, who earn in excess of £162,000 a year, now pay some 27% of all income tax?

            Oh wait its that Corbyn Magic Money Tree called ‘Corporation Tax’ … that he has spent 12 times over …

        • HF is absolutely right. If defence was paid more than mere lip-service, we could afford what we need (note I didn’t say everything we want). Instead, we see fit to plough billions and billions into Foreign Aid every single year – money that Dept literally can’t spend quick enough – whilst pretending we are a player on the world stage. We fool no one, not the Russians, Chinese, Iranians and certainly not the Americans. As it stands, we can’t afford the absolutely bare minimum we need on the shoe-string budget HMG provides. Absolutely scandalous and we as a nation should be ashamed!

          • ‘Please stop with Corbynomics. This country was in a near bankrupt situation’

            You can’t bankrupt a country which controls its own currency, for one thing. It isn’t ‘ Corbynomics’ it’s J M Keynes economics. You don’t recover from the crash caused by the bankers (tories main backers) by shrinking investment and slowing the economy down even further. It’s the tories small minded ideology, based on a misunderstanding of Adam Smith, which just happens to suit their pockets, that we are in this mess. The idea that a multi trillion economy is in any way like a household economy, when that economy has the engines of change and power that a household hasn’t is farcical

    • TH your view is that of little Britain. If you truly believe in your statement then foreign aid, trident and our permanent UN seat goes with it. i suspect you would agree with last two but not reducing foreign aid. Unfortunately in the real world the most important aid is to war torn countries which requires military muscle either directly or the implied threat of its use.

  5. Inserting link Steve, thanks. What I get from looking at it is that there is plenty of potential to reduce spending in other areas and redirect funding to the forces in general but primarily the RN. Defence should be priority one. There is no point in having the best healthcare, education or anything else if you can’t defend it. The debt payments are crippling but I don’t see a way of reducing it in the short term. Better to fund the navy properly post Brexit and use it as a foreign policy lever. Hopefully we can make an economic success of ourselves after Brexit in the medium to long term and start reducing the debt then.

  6. National debt is high. Same as large numbers of Western countries. Our’s is actually not as bad as France, Spain, Italy, Holland.
    The important fact is that there is no plan to pay this off and release future generations from the financial hangover of our generations poor decisions.
    Sorry to say but taxes have to go up. If we want public services we all say we do such as NHS/ Social care (should be a combined joined budget and integrated together) Education, Defence, police/fire/ambulance services as well as renewed investment in public infrastructure and paying down our debt, we are all going to have to pay more. Say 5p more in income tax
    1p to nhs
    1p to education
    1p to defence (taking us to 3% GDP to defence ratio)
    1p to infrastructure paid for directly by a sovereign infrastructure fund (as Norwegian’s have)
    1p debt repayment.
    If we all committed to doing that in 20 years we might actually have a country to start to be proud of.
    Instead we have tax cuts for the rich and for big business whilst economy falters and the wealth divide grows larger and larger. Shameful state of affairs, in the future I will struggle to look my children in the eye, when i have to apologise to them for the mess we have bequeathed them.

    • Don’t forgot ours doesn’t include the cost of the public pensions scheme, which is a huge ticking bomb that is getting worse thanks to just how expensive final salary pension schemes are and even more so considering it’s fully inflation tracking. If you added this to our debt it would be significantly higher than the countries you list.

      To put it into perspective, should a private sector employer want to offer a penison as god as tbe the public sector pensions, they would need to increase their employment cost by around is 50-60%

      • What many people do not understand is that some of the public sector pension schemes were fine until the Labour Government raided them.

        I am a teacher. True the TPS (Teachers Pension Scheme) was a valuable pension.

        However, the government declared that it did not have enough funds to cover all payments. That was their main argument for making the vast changes the Teacher’s Pension Scheme.

        Well, it WAS fully financed, which was fully corroborated by both the FSA, TPS, Government and Pensions Authority.

        Then TWICE the Labour Government took vast sums out the TPS to pay for other things, so it then became un-fully financed. If the government had not done those two large raids on the TPS it would still be fully financed.

        I am now having to pay nearly 3x times as much for a pension which will be worth about 1/2 to a third of what my pension would have been. Thank God I have 16 years in the final salary scheme!! I feel very sorry for those teachers entering the profession now!!

        Utterly scandalous.

    • Mr Bel – Just a small correction if I may? We are paying off our borrowing. When the Government issues GILTs (Bonds) the markets forecast a ‘Yield’ (or profit). Currently that is at an all time low because of the way we have managed reduce our annual PSBR deficit to £14 Bn (nett of capital expenditure of another £40 Bn) in 2016 – 17 or a tenth of what it was in 2009 – 10. What the Left call ‘austerity’ and think its a bad thing but importantly the markets know we are now a good risk. So our costs of issuing debt are very low right now.

      When those GILTs are issued they are for a time limit. As in ‘UK 20 Year @ 2’ which would be long term debt at 2% or it could be for even a year as short term debt. Either way the borrowing plus interest (Yield) is paid off over that period of time. Therefore we are actually paying off our ‘borrowing’ and what is left every year is the remaining ‘debt’. Running a Deficit just adds more to the ‘borrowing’ and therefore the ‘debt’ as it is new.

      I hope this helps.

  7. Well, the UK is still a country to be proud of me thinks… But i do agree with some of you’re points, there needs to be a radical change to the way we do things in this country. I think most of the wealthy western nations will always have a national debt but of course Governments have to be sensible and control their monthly borrowing. I do think the Government needs to loosen it’s purse strings a little and invest more in the NHS, Defence and so on and higher taxes if need be, something needs to change now, the UK is certainly feeling a little tired and low in moral for different reasons including the terrible terrorist attacks and the tower block fire in London and the 24/7 chat about Brexit omg !

    But i do think some of these problems can be sorted out, just need some of those politicians at the top to be a little bit more brave and go for something more radical.

  8. The thing about the Stevens report is it will actually result in the UK saving money (yes you heard me right).

    The main reason defence spending is so outrageously out of control is the mentality of boom and bust. Sir John has rightly put attention on drumbeat or in the business world “fleet management” and is looking for small but often instead of delayed decisions leading to poor decisions, that become bad decisions.

    We can look at this outside of the military as well – its a British disease of short term thinking.

    We have a major fleet of circ 75 ships so that equates to 3 per annum with a 25 year lifespan – We can surely afford 3 ships per year even if they average out at £2.5bn p.a.

    By committing this money industry can plan for the future and create a stable workforce that then sees every £1 spent by the government re-spent that subsequently delivers £3-4 in GDP through the supply and service chains. I think this is money well spent and through taxation etc we get the original £1 back and then some.

    Surely we do have a reason to invest in the military and key national infrastructure projects, not least because our country needs modernised.

  9. Dispense with Trident and vanity projects such as white elephant carriers, destroyers, frigates. Use foreign aid for genuine emergency relief only, not as a means to sell weapons of war. Run a fleet of patrol vessels around the coast, based in local ports as in Nordic countries. Stop policing the world!

    • Naive. I can never understand if extreme leftists are actually that poorly informed or if they know they are wrong and just double down anyway. Try to see the world as it actually is and not how you want it to be. Getting rid of Trident is the stupidest idea imaginable. The reasons are so blindingly obvious and have been covered so many times I simply can’t be bothered to present them again. No frigates or destroyers? It would be pointless to try to explain to you why that is simply retarded. Without touching on any other aspects (what’s the point) how would you be employ all Of the people when you shut down the shipyards and reduce the navy to border patrol duties. Try thinking your ridiculous statement through to its logical end. What you are talking about is disarmament! Why even bother reading articles on this site? Are you not supposed to be helping Lilly Alllen write her next pearl of wisdom for twitter?

      • ‘Naive. I can never understand if extreme leftists are actually that poorly informed or if they know they are wrong and just double down anyway’

        as a left of centre supporter of strong defence I can only say they don’t know their arse from their elbow.

  10. Am I right in my understanding that some of the Foriegn Aid budget is already used to cover the cost of HM Forces training the security services of democratic countries and others in parts of Africa and Asia?

  11. Based on the Type 23 decommissioning plan, it will be 2030 before escort numbers slip below 19. We don’t need to start building Type 31s right away.

  12. National Dept’s are not government Dept’s 90 % are personal Dept’s house loans car loans all bungled together . Some ppl don’t understand what national dept means

    • No, national debt as a common term means just public sector debt and typically also only refers to debt of the central government and not local government.

      If you include private debt into the figure, then the figure is far far bigger and worse.

  13. […] [UK] Government urged to decide on new frigates as National Shipbuilding Strategy still in dry dock GMB, the union for shipbuilders, says now is the time for the Government to commit to new Royal Navy Type 31 frigates and RFA support vessels. […]

  14. All government dept means they are keeping tax below spend .. All governments do it to keep control on the public purse . Only countries that have no national dept don’t spend anything on the public .. Or like Germany Sweden Norway have huge tax culture its not a sign of wealth it just means your taxed to death I lived in Norway you end up working just to pay tax and not much else ..USA the most dept but still the wealthiest country by far ..

    • ‘USA the most dept but still the wealthiest country by far’

      and people living in huge poverty while the rich get richer and most of the country (including the ‘middle class’ getting poorer.

  15. Other than perhaps some of the foreign aid budget (although I think all training of allies and deployments to Estonia etc should come out of this budget) I cannot see what else we can cut. Tax rates will have to go up to pay for NHS, education, and defence budget shortfalls.

    I for one would be happy (well you know what I mean) to pay a bit more to fund key services, including defence. German tax rates are higher than ours and they prosper so I do not see why we can’t increase the tax take without ruining the economy.

    Fund additional escorts, a few more SSNs, replacement for Ocean, Harpoon replacement, 2 squadrons of F35As, Challenger 3 MBT, additional apaches over current order volumes and a few more P8s. Not rocket science is it.

    • Rob – On German tax rates their economy exists on higher tax take because it has a huge trading surplus which provides the foreign currency to service its debts and its foreign imports and the revenues into businesses so they can pay higher wages and invest in technology and training. And that trading surplus is based on a low value Euro rather than the high value Deutsche Mark of years back.

      The UK has an annual nett trading deficit in Goods (like £100 Bn with the EU) and therefore has to borrow foreign currency to fund that deficit. That adds to our annual deficit which becomes National debt which has to be paid (+interest). We cannot afford higher taxes despite full employment because of the endless supply of cheap labour available to UK employers which then keeps wages down.

  16. Building the Type 31 to a planned schedule across multiple ship yards will create jobs across the country, increase ship numbers and drive down costs.

    So, why is the MoD still stalling on an announcement?

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