Despite alarming headlines, the Type 26 frigates have not been cancelled or “indefinitely postponed”.
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.
Unions have also insisted that there will be no redundancies as a result of uncertainty over the Type 26 build timetable on the Clyde.
Duncan McPhee from Unite said the contract was still guaranteed.
“There is guarantees. The main issue is the timetable, which is causing us the real problems and that has to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
Mr McPhee also added that BAE bosses were in negotiations with officials at the MoD to resolve the timetable issues:
“It means for jobs that we have the workforce geared up for this programme and that workforce will remain. It means that we are going to have to do a lot of things between the company and moving different work packages about, keeping people at Rosyth maybe for longer working on the aircraft carriers, maybe having to transfer people down to Barrow for the submarine programme so we will keep the jobs.”
Tony Douglas an MoD official responsible for military equipment confirmed that the MoD was “now in the heart of negotiations” with BAE Systems and didn’t want to prejudice those negotiations by revealing a date.
Peter Roberts, Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and Maritime Studies at RUSI has said that slippage in the Type 26 programme may lead to extra ships being built on the Clyde in order to retain jobs at the yards on the river.
“What it’s going to mean for the Clyde is very significant and I think we couldn’t get a national shipbuilding strategy at a more important time and it might well be that we see further OPV’s being turned out on the Clyde”
He also suggested that the Type 31 light frigate could enter build before the Type 26.
Referring to the commitment of the government to the Clyde, he said:
“There is going to be a commitment, we see that from the government, of continued shipbuilding orders.”
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.”
Mr Dunne also promised the programme would sustain 6,800 military and civilian jobs in Scotland, rising to 8,200 by 2022.
A MoD spokesperson said:
“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 warship. 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.”
The SNP and others had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce.
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 later five are now designated the Type 31 frigate.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that all new frigates and additional vessels mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland.