Select Committee on Work and Pensions Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Amicus MSF Section (SHP 2)

  As trade unionists we welcome the fact that we have currently under way the largest shipbuilding programme for many years, and of course we welcome the Government commitment to insisting that all new warships are built in this country.

We share a common interest in maximising the development of UK skills and technology in shipbuilding through the procurement programme and by the winning of export orders, however we have concerns that the Industry will tend to become over reliant on MoD orders alone.

We believe that it is up to the shipyards themselves to become as efficient and productive as possible, not only for MoD contracts, but also for commercial and export orders.

There is, however, a need to provide greater support for the pursuance of export opportunities through Government agencies such as the Defence Export Services Organisation.

This is particularly relevant in relation to industry predictions of continued expansion over the next 15 years, rising from around 558 million gross tonnes to 688 million gross tonnes by 2010, an increase of 23.2 per cent, with further growth to 760 million gross tonnes by 2015.

A major area of concern to Amicus-MSF is the lack of Government commitment to a truly "Built in the UK" strategy. We are aware that the idea has been "floated" within Government of carrying out design work for the CVF in Spain and this opens up several topics around the concept of "Made in Great Britain".

An example is our experience in relation to the ALSL contract where design work was carried out overseas. As a consequence and in conjunction with equipment procurement and subsequent sub-contracting, in excess of 40 per cent of the cost to the UK taxpayer was spent abroad. Estimates show that a similar exercise for the CVF could result in 64 per cent being spent abroad.

We believe that the MoD DPA will be disadvantaged if these designs continue to go abroad, with additional disadvantages to the UK economy and the Treasury's income from that cash flow.

We are aware that careful consideration is presently being given to the new class of "Future Surface Combatant" as well as new ships to replace the ageing RFA tankers which are due to leave service soon.

Government has to make a positive decision based on the knowledge developed in our Naval Engineering Standards, which can deliver compliant designs, free from difference in interpretation.

April 2002

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