The Commons Defence Select Committee has announced a hearing into the National Shipbuilding Strategy – and overhauling the engines of Royal Navy destroyers
Campaigners have welcomed an announcement that MPs will grill military chiefs over plans to build new Royal Navy ships.
Commons Defence Select Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood has written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warning him MPs want answers over procuring naval vessels.
A minister is expected to be hauled in front of the panel in the coming weeks.
It comes amid increasing pressure from industry bosses, unions and backbenchers for the Government to speed-up ordering new ships.
Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions general secretary Ian Waddell said: “Having a strong Royal Navy is absolutely vital for Britain to meet new challenges in a fast-changing international situation.
“Key to that will be the ability to design, build and maintain our own warships and auxiliary support ships.
Courtesy of the CSEU)
“That means having a defence industrial strategy that is designed to nurture our sovereign capability to build naval ships by investing in and maintaining our skills base and workforce.
“We welcome confirmation that there will be a future select committee evidence session on shipbuilding policy in order to hold the Government’s feet to the fire over promises they have made to our shipbuilding communities.”
Mr Ellwood wrote to the Defence Secretary after the updated National Shipbuilding Strategy was published.
The 80–page blueprint outlines the vessels the Government expects to be ordered in the coming decades, as well as deals already underway.
They include three Fleet Solid Support ships, “up to five” Type 32 light frigates and “up to six” “Multi Role Support Ships”.
The MPs also plan to demand answers about the process of upgrading engines to Type 45 Daring-class destroyers in the “power improvement project” (PIP), amid anger at delays and availability of the £1billion ships.
Mr Ellwood said: “The Royal Navy remains one of the most capable forces in the world, but it will face significant challenges in the years ahead.
“I welcome the Secretary of State’s engagement on these issues and the Government’s recognition of the strategic importance of the Navy.
“However, as we have found in our inquiry, it is crucial there is the right investment in our fleet to ensure the UK has the capability to act in an increasingly complex international security environment.
“The Government needs to ensure that current ships are available and ready to fight, and that new ones come into service quickly.
“We will continue to scrutinise the Navy’s progress on these critical projects, particularly how they can address the increasing delays to the Type 45 PIP and ensure that these vital ships are ready to defend the UK in an increasingly insecure world.”
Labour MP Kevan Jones, a former Defence Minister who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Shipbuilding and sits on the committee, said: “Like all three of our armed services, the Royal Navy is suffering from understaffing, a shortage of training exercises and delays to maintenance programmes.
“Royal Navy ships which should be currently deployed to protect British interests and provide assurances to allies remain tied up.”