It has emerged that the sourcing of UK steel is to be a policy for naval shipbuilding in the UK.
The information comes to light through a written response to a question asked by MP Stephen Doughty.
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to the Answer of 20 January 2016 to Question 22740, what steps his Department is taking to encourage and facilitate the supply of steel from UK sources for the (a) Type 26 and (b) Type 31 frigate programmes.”
The question was answered by Philip Dunne:
“In the main, Ministry of Defence (MOD) requirements for steel are sourced by our prime contractors taking into account cost, time and quality. The MOD has issued new policy guidance to ensure, as far as we are able to within EU procurement legislation and the Government’s overarching priority of value for money, that we are addressing the barriers that prevent UK steel suppliers from competing on a level playing field with international suppliers. This emphasises the importance of increased pre-market engagement, including industry days and the signalling of future requirements for steel, bringing prime contractors and steel producers together to facilitate supply chain opportunities. I have also written to our main defence contractors to highlight the new policy guidelines and seek their assistance and support in implementing them.”
No steel suppliers have yet been selected or orders placed for the Type 26 Global Combat Ships or Light General Purpose Frigates. The sourcing of steel for these programmes will take account of the new policy.”
It had also been revealed earlier this year that only 6% of the steel used in the Queen Elizabeth class came from overseas. Over the years, the project has involved a number of production teams, including research and development, technical and production staff from five UK sites and mills.
Alongside the mills, technical and supply chain experts worked closely with BAE to provide more than 90% of the steel used in the build. Tata Steel also worked closely with key suppliers including the UK’s leading independent service centre for the shipbuilding industry, Dent Steel.
Tata Steel supplied steel used in everything from the hull of the ship to the 130 tonne ski jump. Tata Steel also developed three new steel grades, FH36, EH46 and ‘Install Plus’. The new grades are lighter and stronger than previous types and allow the Queen Elizabeth class to use less fuel.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:
“94% of the steel used to build the two aircraft carriers that this government is bringing into service came from UK mills. The rest was specialist steel which could not be sourced here in the UK.”
A Government spokesperson said:
“No-one should be in any doubt that – across all of Government’s major procurements – we are working hard to make sure that wherever possible, British suppliers have a fighting chance of competing for and winning contracts.
UK suppliers have provided significant quantities of steel for major defence equipment procurement programmes and new government guidelines will help UK steel suppliers to compete effectively with international suppliers for major projects, including those in defence.”