Shipbuilding contracts

Stephen Hepburn, the Labour MP for the Jarrow Constituency, has continued his campaign to support shipbuilding jobs in the North East and UK by further pressing Defence Ministers to keep navy shipbuilding contacts in the UK. 

The Government are currently takingsteps to procure a number of ‘fleet support ships’ for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. They have stated that the competition to build these ships will be subject to international tender, rather than UK only. 

These ships will be designed to replenish Royal Navy warships at sea with ammunition, food and other supplies. The new ships will replace the current dry stores ships, which were built in the mid-1970s.

During a question time session to the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Hepburn said: “I acknowledge Ministers’ work to retain knowledge and skill in the ranks of our defence forces; it is just a pity that they do not apply the same effort to our defence industry, instead of giving a billion-pound taxpayers’ order to improve skills and jobs in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands.”

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Rt Hon Tobias Ellwood MP responded with: “As I said, the art of war is changing, and we need to diversify, which means recruiting a wider range of skillsets. Not everybody can come up through the ranks with all the capabilities that we need. We need to be cleverer at inviting people in at a higher rank, which is part of our enterprise approach to bringing in skillsets from civilian street at a much higher level.”

Stephen Hepburn MP is calling on the Government to make the competition to build these ships available for UK shipyards only, rather than allowing international shipyards to also bid. 

Mr Hepburn has previously said in Parliament that “shipbuilding industries throughout the world are very heavily subsidised, in one way or another, by their Government and that it does not happen in this country.” He believes that this ‘doesn’t allow for a more level playing field’ and UK shipyards cannot compete. 

Research by the Labour Party and trade unions has found that the fleet support ships’ contract could create 6,700 jobs and boost the UK’s economy by over £1 billion. They have said that if overseas shipyards win the contact, Britain will also lose out on vital income and jobs for British yards and ports. 

Labour have also launched a petition to get the Government to reverse the decision for international competition and to build them in Britain. It can be signed here:

Stephen Hepburn MP said: “It is shocking how the Tories are refusing to back British industry and workers.

“They are allowing the new Royal Navy frigates to be built in Britain, but because these support ships will be classed as ‘non-warships’, they are opening up the possibility of them being built elsewhere. This is despite the fact that they will be carrying munitions and will be armed with weapon systems for self-defence.
“It simply doesn’t make sense. They should be supporting British shipyards, not those of other countries.

“Our shipyards have proved their worth in recent years by fulfilling other Royal Navy contracts such as the two new the aircraft carriers.

“I’m going to keep campaigning to get the Government to reverse their ill-thought-out decision and press them to ensure that the contract is awarded to UK shipyards.”

Meet your MP


Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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