Labour in ‘Britain first’ ships pledge

James Heappey responds to Ministry of Defence email leaks

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The pledge comes after the Government was criticised for awarding a £1.6billion contract to a Spanish-led consortium. Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey is seeking to amend legislation coming to the Commons this week to ensure British workers receive the bulk of jobs created by the construction of three fleet support ships.

He said the intervention was part of Labour’s promise to “buy, make and sell more in Britain”.

The Ministry of Defence last week confirmed it was giving a ship-building contract to Team Resolute, a consortium led by a firm called Navantia UK.

While the business is registered here, it is wholly owned by Spanish firm Navantia SA, which in turn is owned by Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales, a holding company owned by the government in Madrid.

Ministers say the number of jobs in Spain will be “fewer than the number of jobs sustained and created in the UK”, but Labour said this would allow almost half to go overseas. Team Resolute also includes shipbuilder Harland & Wolff, which has a yard in Belfast, and Bath-based designer BMT.

Labour amendments to the Procurement Bill would require ministers to carry out a review revealing exactly where jobs are created and where the steel used comes from.

Mr Healey said: “Labour will make sure UK shipyards are getting their fair share, strengthening our economy, and boosting our industrial capability.

“In government, we will make it fundamental that defence investment is directed first to British business, with a higher bar set for any decision to buy abroad.”

Defence Minister Alex Chalk said: “The contract will deliver more than 1,000 new UK shipyard jobs, generate hundreds of graduate and apprentice opportunities across the UK and a significant number of jobs across the supply chain.

“Team Resolute has pledged to invest £77million in infrastructure to modernise the UK shipbuilding sector.”

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