HC Deb 23 April 2001 vol 367 cc4-5
3. Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch)

When the first type 45 destroyer will enter service with the Royal Navy. [156929]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie)

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence stated in the House on 11 July last year, we remain committed to an in-service date of 2007 for the first type 45 destroyer.

Mr. Chope

The Minister said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), that the procurement strategy had not changed. In that case, why have the Government not rejected out of hand the unsolicited bid from BAE Systems and why do they not confirm that the original strategy—which would give Vosper Thornycroft on the south coast of England an equal share in the programme—still stands? Would it not be a very good way of celebrating St. George's day to place faith in a great English warship builder that has exported more than 300 warships in the past 10 years?

Dr. Moonie

It is British yards that we are in favour of—not just English ones. I repeat what I said before: the policy has not changed. Of course, it is incumbent on us to give careful consideration to proposals that would ostensibly save a great deal of money, and we would be in dereliction of our duty if we did not do that. However, I can confirm that things are progressing well and that the initial stages of the programme are on time.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland)

I thank my hon. Friend for that statement, but will he bring forward the orders to help the workers on the Clyde and to ensure that they receive a fair share of the work? Perhaps he could also remind Conservative Members that the ships are British, not English.

Dr. Moonie

The programme is progressing as fast as it can. There have been no delays, information is being shared and the design is progressing. There is nothing more that I can say other than to add that the ships will be brought into service as quickly as possible.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)

Is it not quite clear that the Government's agenda on this matter is to try to pull the wool over the eyes of everyone concerned and to keep it there until after the election? The Government signed a contract with BAE Systems in December for the first three of class and that was supposed to provide for the second of class to be built by Vosper Thornycroft. No such contract has been awarded or has even been offered to Vosper Thornycroft and, as my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) just said, the Government have markedly not responded to the BAE Systems pre-emptive offer to build all 12 of class, which would be thoroughly inconsistent with everything that the Government have said about their strategy for this matter. Is it not quite clear that the Government have very bad news in store either for the workers of the Clyde or for the workers of the Southampton and Portsmouth areas and that they are simply determined to hold that news back until after the election?

Dr. Moonie

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but there is no truth in any of the allegations that he has made.