Last Sunday, UK Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey made another request that ministers award the contract for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Fleet Solid Support ship (FSS) programme to a British consortium.
The Labour Party is pressing for a “Built in Britain” test for defence and security spending in an attempt to guarantee that ships acquired under the £1.5bn contract will be built in the UK.
The FSS ships are not classed as warships because they will be a part of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA). This means that they can be built abroad, unlike Royal Navy warships, which must be built in the UK for national security reasons.
An article by Save The Royal Navy explains that many governments financially support their shipbuilders through subsidies and loan guarantees. This means that foreign shipbuilders may make lower-price bids that UK shipbuilders are unable to compete with.
The three 40,000 tonne ships will resupply Royal Navy aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates with food, ammunition and explosives while at sea.
Healey told Naval Technology in a statement: “For five years, Defence ministers have dithered over this decision when it’s a no-brainer to build these vital new ships in Britain.
“They are selling Britain short by not putting the work into UK shipyards. No other major military nation has ordered naval support ships from overseas.”
He continued: “What can be built in Britain now, must be built in Britain.
“And long-term defence and security procurement must also involve plans to develop the UK’s future capacity to build in Britain. This is one test by which we will judge the government’s new Integrated Review of defence and security.”
The project was halted in November 2019 as bidders were, according to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, “not compliant” with the cost.
Research by Oxford Economics showed that for every £1 million spent in UK manufacturing there is a further £1.5 million benefit for the wider economy.
It is also estimated that for every job created in the manufacturing sector 1.8 are created in the wider economy and supply chain.