Earlier concern over the speculated cancellation of Astute boat number seven has been eased by a defence minister.
New defence procurement minister Guto Bebb informed MPs in a written statement:
“The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received approval in principle from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to recognise new contingent liabilities associated with the Astute Boat 7 ‘Whole Boat’ Contract.”
We understand that this announcement paves the way for the formal contract to be signed before the end of the financial year.
The scrapping of the seventh Astute Class submarine under construction had been “actively considered” it emerged earlier in the year. A leaked document seen by The Sunday Express stated senior officials read:
“In the long term the delay (or cancellation) will ease the pressure on manning, but we must not be seen to welcome this situation. Any loss of capability will impact on operations.”
Barrow MP John Woodcock said at the time:
“This leaked document is confirmation that scrapping Astute boat seven is being actively considered by the government. There is embarrassingly flawed logic within the decision but it shows just how much pressure there is to find any route out of the cash crisis that is gripping the MoD.”
Woodcock later tweeted:
“To be clear – we are not there yet. The defence secretary will clearly fight for the funds to cover the defence equipment programme, including boat 7. But the fact our submarine programme is under threat shows the terrible funding pressure being imposed by the Treasury.”
This comes not long after the fourth Astute class submarine, Audacious, which is being built by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy, completed her first ever dive.