Build new Royal Navy ships in UK shipyards, urges Jeremy Corbyn

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 11 May 2018 in News

Jeremy Corbyn to use Glasgow speech to call for UK Government to reverse decision to put £1bn contract for new ships out to international tender

Image credit: PA

Jeremy Corbyn will use a Glasgow speech to urge the Government to guarantee that new Royal Navy vessels will be manufactured in UK shipyards.

In a speech later today the Labour leader will insist that the Government reverses its decision to put a £1bn contract for three new Fleet Solid Support Ships out to international tender.

Corbyn will say that the Government are “trashing” a proud tradition of UK shipbuilding by offering up the contracts for the new Royal Navy vessels to multinational companies.

Seven foreign companies, including some from South Korea, Poland and Spain, attended a Ministry of Defence industry day for those interested in the contract while only five UK-based shipbuilders were in attendance.

The new ships will support the Navy’s new aircraft carriers, helping to supply them with food and ammunition while at sea.

The Labour leader will say: “This decision is wrong. Today we are calling on the Government to guarantee that these three new ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be built in domestic shipyards.

“Building these ships in Britain would benefit those working in and supporting our world-class shipbuilding industry. Over 6,500 workers could be employed through this contract, 1,800 of them in shipyards. Decisive public intervention in support of this vital industry would protect it from anti-competitive practices by overseas firms and other states.

“By refusing to help our industry thrive, the Conservatives are continuing their historic trend of hollowing out and closing down British industry. Over the course of the 1980s under the Tories, 75,000 jobs were lost in UK shipyards, leaving just 32,000 remaining.

“Our shipyards used to produce half of all new ships worldwide. Our current market share is now less than half a per cent. The Tories seem hell-bent on accelerating and deepening this industrial decline."

He will also use the opportunity to set out Labour’s commitment to use public contracts to boost the economy if his party comes to power.

He added: “Don’t listen to anyone who says we can’t build things in Britain and that a casino economy, which produces little but soaring inequality and insecurity, is our only future. Shipbuilding is not a lame duck, and can have a high tech, high skilled and exciting future right here in the UK.

“We can make sure that happens, but only if we reject the Tories’ outdated free market obsession that gives the whip hand to out-of-control multinational companies and doesn’t care about the everyday needs and wishes of workers and consumers.

“The Government claims that it is overseeing a ‘renaissance’ in British shipbuilding. But Scottish employers have pushed through one set of redundancies after another in recent years.

“Our proposal would both sustain existing shipbuilding and supply chain jobs, and create new ones -  right here in Scotland and also across the UK.”

His comments comes after a project to build four Tide-class fuel tankers by South Korean shipbuilders Daewoo resulted in significant delays before the vessles entered service.

Deputy Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly described Corbyn's comments as "laughable".

“It’s laughable that Jeremy Corbyn is trying to paint himself as a defender of Britain.

“Labour wouldn’t back the armed forces, have broken their promise over renewing Trident, and would turn their back on our closest allies.

“At a time when we are facing increasing threats, it is this Conservative Government that is investing in UK shipbuilding, expanding the service fleet for the first time in a generation and backing our armed forces to keep Britain safe.”

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