§ 51. Mr. Robert Hicks
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the existing arrangements governing the allocation of the core programme and commercial tendering work for Devonport dockyards; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Kenneth Carlisle
The arrangements governing the commercial management of Devonport royal dockyard are kept under review both in regard to work which is allocated, known as the core programme, and that which is offered to the ship building and repair industry at large on a competitive basis for which DML is free to quote. The Government's declared aim when establishing the two contractorised dockyards was to place, by the end of the first term contract, a significant proportion of the annual workload with the unallocated programme. Subsequently the Government have had to take into account the much faster than anticipated reduction in the Royal Navy repair and refit programme and the need to make economic use of the resources available in the two dockyards. This year there have been significant changes in the planned programme at Devonport, both as a result of the announcement by my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, on 503W 31 July and the need to support operations in the Gulf. In consequence, it is intended, subject to the agreement of satisfactory terms, to place an early contract with DML for the refit of RFA Fort Austin, which was not previously in the Devonport core programme. In addition a substantial package of work on RFA Argus in support of Gulf operations should make a worth while contribution towards maintaining the company's workload.