Birkenhead MP Mick Whitley has been joined by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, Leader of Wirral Borough Council Janette Williamson and Members of Parliament from across Merseyside in calling on the Defence Secretary to back the British shipbuilding industry by awarding the contract for the Royal Navy’s new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships to a consortium of UK-based shipbuilders.
This follows reports last week that the Ministry of Defence may be on the verge of awarding the £1.6 billion contract to Team Resolute, a consortium which includes Belfast’s Harland and Wolff, but which is led by the Spanish state-owned shipyard Navantia.
The union Prospect has warned that a Team Resolute victory would mean that only 20 – 40% of the work would take place in Britain.
The signatories of the letter to Ben Wallace said this would be a “disastrous result of the entire of the shipbuilding industry”.
They urged the Defence Secretary to choose a competing bid put forward by Team UK, describing this as the “only way that the government can honour its commitments to the British shipbuilding industry”.
This consortium, which includes Birkenhead’s Cammell Laird alongside Babcock International and BAE systems, has advanced the only bid proposing to construct the FSS entirely in Britain.
Mick Whitley said that the “economic benefits” of building the vessels in the UK “are obvious”.
If successful, Team UK has committed to investing £90 million in British shipyards and a further £54 million in apprenticeships and training. This would result in an estimated £650 million of the total spend would be returned to the Treasury through direct and indirect taxation.
The Defence Secretary’s decision will have particularly significant consequences for the town of Birkenhead, where Cammell Laird is poised to play a central role in the construction of the vessels.
Mick Whitley said that the work could guarantee hundreds of jobs on-site and “turbocharge” the yard’s plans to more than double the training opportunities offered at its Marine Engineering College.
The Birkenhead MP has been campaigning for Team UK to be awarded the contract since his election to Parliament in 2019 and organised a debate in the House of Commons early this year after then Prime Minister Boris Johnson chose Cammell Laird as the site to launch a refreshed National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Signatories to the letter included Mick Whitley MP, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram, Wirral Council leader Janette Williamson, and Merseyside MPs Kim Johnson, George Howarth, Ian Byrne, Peter Dowd, and Angela Eagle.