Delay will not cost jobs, say yard bosses
DOCKYARD bosses insist no jobs will be lost as a result of delays in bringing the Royal Navy's two new aircraft carriers into service as part of a drive to save cash, writes Parliamentary Correspondent Nick Lester .
But putting the brakes on the £4billion project to make savings is likely to spark concerns that Devonport could lose out on some of the expected additional surface ship maintenance work from other yards, during construction of the vessels. And despite assurances, doubts linger over the consequences for jobs.
Dockyard owner Babcock International is among the companies that are part of the alliance to build and assemble the carriers, which is one of the largest items in the Ministry of Defence equipment programme.
The vessels had been due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, but Defence Secretary John Hutton said it was being brought more closely in line with the introduction of the Joint Combat Aircraft which they will carry.
It means the aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales are likely to enter service one or two years later than expected following a review of spending.
Mr Hutton said that the purpose of the MoD review was to adapt to the rising cost of state-of-the-art military equipment and to provide support to continuing operations, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Plymouth Royal Marines are currently deployed. This included £700million plans for an extra 700 armoured vehicles, including an additional 100 Jackal vehicles, currently made at Devonport.
The Defence Secretary also confirmed a threatened contract for 62 new Future Lynx helicopters, which will have important implications for Plymouth firms involved in the supply chain.
A spokesperson for Babcock said there would be no job losses at any of its sites' facilities as a result of the changes to the carrier programme.
"Our apprenticeship programmes will also be unaffected," she said. However, it could delay the creation of some additional jobs.
Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton Linda Gilroy said: "There shouldn't be any implications for jobs. The budget has not been cut, but is under significant pressure. In that situation it's right requirements are prioritised for the time being."
Labour MP for Plymouth Devonport Alison Seabeck said there was a 'logic' to the carrier delay, and would ensure the provision of helicopters and armoured vehicles for combat troops.
"A long as we can keep the flow of work at Devonport," she said. "We are being told quite clearly this will not impact on jobs."
But Tory MP Gary Streeter had his doubts. "How can you delay bringing in the carriers and not have consequences for jobs?" he said.
December 11 session
Ministers came under fire yesterday for not making an oral statement to the Commons on the future of two new aircraft carriers. John Hutton, the defence secretary, said in a written statement they were likely to enter service up to two years later than expected after a spending review.
Theresa May, the shadow Commons leader, said a written statement "prevents members from asking key questions on the defence budget, on jobs and on national security".
Harriet Harman, the Commons leader, side-stepped calls for an oral statement, saying: "Work is under way on those aircraft carriers that are being procured and that work will carry forward."
Most National Insurance-based benefits will rise by 5% and income-related benefits by 6.3%, Tony McNulty, the employment minister, told MPs. Announcing the annual benefits uprating, McNulty said the government was committed to providing "real support" in the economic downturn.
Nigel Waterson, the shadow minister for work and pensions, welcomed the increases but asked why ministers would not restore the earnings link for pensions. McNulty told MPs the changes would mean that the basic state pension would increase by £4.55 a week from April 2009 to £95.25 or £152.30 for couples.
BAM shipbuilding deal unaffected by MoD delays
12 December, 2008
By David Rogers
Navy aircraft carriers will go into service later to save costs but £35m construction deal not affected
The company helping build the dock to take two massive Royal Navy aircraft carriers, BAM Nuttall, has said that the delay to when they come into service will not affect its contract.
Defence secretary John Hutton said yesterday that one carrier will come into service 12 months later than planned and the other two years later, as part of an effort to cut spiralling Ministry of Defence costs. Both were originally due to be in service by 2016.
BAM Nuttall, the sister company of BAM, the renamed HBG, is building the dock at Rosyth dockyard near Edinburgh for Babcock Marine under a £35m deal.
Its deal is due to finish in October 2010, and a spokesman said: “We're well advanced with the contract and work will carry on to its conclusion.”
The new carriers, called HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, will each weigh 65,000 tonnes and measure 284m long, 74m wide and 56m high.