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GMB Slams Government for Insisting Vital Royal Navy Shipbuilding Contracts Must Be Tendered to Foreign Competitors

Thursday, November 2, 2017

All Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels must be built in UK yards, says GMB.

GMB, the union for shipbuilding, has today [Thursday 2 November] said the UK Government’s decision to open-up the manufacture of three 40,000 tonne Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessels to international tender ‘undermines the national interest’.

Despite the recommendations of the Parker Report [1], the Government decided contracts for the new RFA’s should be offered to international companies – rather that keeping construction for UK shipyards.

Glasgow South West MP Christopher Stephens asked the Ministry of Defence to clarify their position.

Yesterday, defence minister Harrier Baldwin replied ‘ships should be subject to open competition'. [2]

GMB says all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels must be built in UK yards.

The union is calling for cross-parliamentary support of MPs as well as shipbuilding employers to join workers and their communities and demand an end to this tragic missed opportunity for UK shipbuilding.

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said:

“The RFA contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential and transforming the fortunes of our shipbuilding communities.

“But Ministers' refusal to put the UK’s interests first will mean that instead of a massive programme of shared economic and employment re-distribution, our shipbuilding firms will be competing against each other for slivers of complex warship work.

“Against the backdrop of Brexit, the Government should be fighting for the defence and growth of as much decent work as possible – not hiving off huge skilled manufacturing opportunities to international competitors for the lowest cost possible.

“The RFA vessels will support and serve our Royal Navy and we have the capacity and skills base to deliver their manufacture, while generating hundreds of millions of pounds worth of wages for the UK economy.

“It beggars belief that the Government wants to give this golden opportunity away to foreign competitors when working class communities up and down the country are crying out for decent work.

“Instead of undermining the national interest, the Government should be defending our vital shipbuilding industry.

“It can start doing this by ensuring that in future all Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels should be built by UK shipyards.”


Contact: GMB press office on 07958 156846 or at

Notes to editors:


[2] The Ministry of Defence has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (109854):

Question: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what criteria are used to establish whether a contract for naval ships should be advertised and such ships procured by international rather than national competition; and if he will make a statement. (109854)

Tabled on: 26 October 2017

Answer: Harriett Baldwin:

As set out in the National Shipbuilding Strategy, future procurement of ships by the Ministry of Defence will be by competition. All Royal Navy warships (destroyers, frigates and aircraft carriers) will continue to have a UK-owned design, and will be built and integrated in the UK. Warship build will be via competition between UK shipyards. All other naval ships should be subject to open competition, provided that there are no compelling national security reasons to constrain a particular procurement to national providers. Integration of sensitive UK-specific systems will be done in the UK, where possible after competition between UK providers.

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