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Ministers face calls to come clean over details of £1.6billion deal for new Royal Navy ships

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will be assembled at the Harland and Wolff site in Belfast, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

Ministers have been asked to clarify the amount of work in a £1.6billion deal to build support ships for the Royal Navy, amid fears nearly half could not be done in Spain.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced last week that the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, Spain’s state-owned shipbuilding company, was the preferred bidder to build three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships.

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will be assembled at the Harland and Wolff site in Belfast, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

Work on the vessels will also take place at the Navantia shipyard in Cádiz, southern Spain, in a move which Mr Wallace said would “strengthen the transfer of technology and key skills from a world-renowned shipbuilder, crucial to the modernization of British shipyards”.

H&W chief executive John Wood said a “minimum” of 60% of the work would be done in the UK.

However, ministers have been more coy, with the Ministry of Defense only committing to a ‘majority’ in the UK.

Last week, Armed Forces Minister Alex Chalk said that ‘the precise balance of work between each individual site is Harland & Wolff’s business’, adding: ‘The number of jobs maintained in Spain to deliver Fleet Solid Support ships is a matter for the contractor concerned, but it will be less than the number of jobs maintained and created in the UK.

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Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey accused the Minister of potentially “backtracking on investment and jobs commitments”.

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will be assembled at the Harland and Wolff site in Belfast, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

The trio of 708ft Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels will be assembled at the Harland and Wolff site in Belfast, with other parts built in Devon and Scotland.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced last week that the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, Spain's state-owned shipbuilding company, was the preferred bidder to build three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace announced last week that the Team Resolute consortium including Navantia, Spain’s state-owned shipbuilding company, was the preferred bidder to build three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships.

Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey accused the Minister of potentially

Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey accused the Minister of potentially “backtracking on investment and jobs commitments”.

“By building these ships in Spain, ministers have dismissed a great opportunity to boost our UK economy and strengthen our sovereign industrial capacity at a time of increasing threats,” he said.

“Ministers could have removed any doubts by building these ships entirely in the UK, as Labor would do.”

Asked to give a more precise figure on the work split between the UK and Spain, the MoD referred MailOnline to its initial statement.

The contract will see the vessels built to a British design by Bath-based BMT, which forms the rest of the Team Resolute consortium along with Navantia UK and H&W.

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Legally, all Royal Navy warships must be built in the UK, but the law requires contracts for support ships to be put out to international tender. There would have been five bidders.

Last week, Mr Chalk made a point of wooing SMEs, telling the Make UK Defense Summit in Birmingham that he believed very passionately in small business.

Last week, Mr Chalk made a point of wooing SMEs, telling the Make UK Defense Summit in Birmingham that he believed very passionately in small business.

The construction of the previous series of four support ships was heavily criticized when the contract was awarded to a South Korean shipyard in 2012.

The Opposition has also raised concerns about the amount of defense work given to small businesses in the UK.

They say only one in every £20 spent on defense goes to companies employing fewer than 250 people and making less than £50m a year, despite making up 97% of the sector in Britain.

Businesses in the south of England received 54% of just under £1bn spent on SMEs in 2020/21, according to government figures.

MOD spending with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK was just under £1 billion in 2020/21.

SMEs in the South of England received the most spending, with 54% of total SME spending.

Last week, Mr Chalk made a point of wooing SMEs, telling the Make UK Defense Summit in Birmingham that he believed very passionately in small businesses.

“I think it is in your interest and in the interest of nations that you get a fair chance on defense procurement,” he said, highlighting the work being done at the airport in the city by a team converting Boeing 737s into E-7 airborne early warning aircraft.

“As the Chancellor made clear in his financial statement last week – we have to deliver the best value for money, we have to deliver the maximum punch for our pound so to speak.

“Therefore, your role as supplier to our armed forces is more important than ever. Not only by keeping our forces equipped with everything they need, not only by providing that cutting-edge innovation, technology and capability that keeps us ahead of our adversaries, but through your accomplishments, the strengthening the entire sector so that come what may, when the call comes, our nation is ready to answer.

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