§ Mr. David Martin
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to place a contract for batch 2 Trafalgar class submarines; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Arbuthnot
I am pleased to announce that a contract has been placed with GEC-Marconi as prime contractors for the design, build and initial support of three batch 2 Trafalgar class submarines. The new boats will be known as the Astute class, and are expected to enter service early next century. The submarines will be built at GEC-Marconi's VSEL shipyard in Barrow.
The new vessels will be powered by the Rolls Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor, fitted with the updated weapons system of batch 1 Trafalgar class submarines, and armed with the Spearfish torpedo and Submarine-Harpoon anti-ship missile. They will be able to carry conventionally armed Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Astute class will replace the Royal Navy's existing Swiftsure class boats as these vessels reach the end of their operational lives in the early part of the next century. They will perform a wide range of roles including anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare.
The order was won in competition with VSEL, before the company was taken over by GEC-Marconi, and the decision was based on what would provide the best value for money for the taxpayer. The contract will be worth nearly £2 billion to GEC-Marconi and its sub-contractors, and will help to sustain around 7,000 jobs. It has been warmly welcomed by the Royal Navy, and is good news for Barrow and the many sub-contractors who will be working on the project across the UK.