Navy’s £1bn sup­ply ships pro­gramme may be scut­tled by bud­get cuts, warn in­sid­ers

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Alan Tovey

FEARS are grow­ing that a £1bn-plus con­tract to build ships to sup­ply the Navy’s new air­craft car­ri­ers could be aban­doned in ex­pected de­fence cuts, dam­ag­ing Bri­tain’s strug­gling ship­build­ing in­dus­try.

Bid­ding to build up to three “fleet solid sup­port” (FSS) ships to sup­ply air­craft car­ri­ers with stores such as am­mu­ni­tion and food was halted in the au­tumn when none of the bid­ders could meet the terms re­quired.

Now de­fence in­sid­ers say the pro­gramme is seen as likely to be aban­doned if the mil­i­tary bud­get is cut be­cause of the costs run up bat­tling coro­n­avirus.

How­ever, build­ing the FSS ves­sels is seen as a key way of main­tain­ing the coun­try’s ship­build­ing sec­tor, as well as be­ing part of the Gov­ern­ment’s “lev­el­ling up” agenda, cre­at­ing jobs in de­pressed re­gions.

Ian Wad­dell, gen­eral sec­re­tary of the Ship­build­ing and En­gi­neer­ing Union, said: “The FSS pro­gramme is a per­fect ex­am­ple of what the Prime Min­is­ter would call a ‘shovel-ready’ project.

“It will get the post-coro­n­avirus econ­omy up and run­ning as part of the lev­el­ling up agenda by in­ject­ing £1.3bn into re­gional economies and could ben­e­fit ev­ery sin­gle ship­yard in the UK.”

Build­ing the FSS ships in the UK would also sup­port Sir John Parker’s na­tional ship­build­ing strat­egy re­view. This backed pro­duc­ing ships for the Bri­tish mil­i­tary in do­mes­tic ship­yards to pre­vent the in­dus­try from col­laps­ing with­out reg­u­lar work.

A Min­istry of De­fence spokesman said: “We con­tinue work on the pro­cure­ment strat­egy for the FSS and will pro­vide fur­ther de­tails when the cur­rent stage is com­pleted.”

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