£4bn supercarriers order comes to the Clyde

20 May 2008

The long-awaited order for the £4billion super- carriers that will guarantee the future of Govan and Scotstoun shipyards was officially confirmed in Parliament today.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said the "necessary alignment of work schedule, commercial arrangements and planned annual expenditure" had been completed.

The news was immediately welcomed by Clyde workers and Scottish politicians.

The work will create or sustain 3500 jobs at BAE Systems' Govan and Scotstoun yards and 10,000 jobs in total across UK at the peak of production.

The carriers, weighing 65,000 tonnes and costing around £2billion each, will be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

Although Mr Browne said they would enter service in 2014 and 2016 respectively, the final contract for work to begin has yet to be signed.

However, the companies involved - BAE Systems and the VT Group - said that was expected to happen "shortly".

In a written Commons statement, Mr Browne said: "Following finalisation of legal arrangements and the formation of the planned naval shipbuilding and support Joint Venture Company, formal contract signature will take place.

"We have given our written assurance to the VT Group and BAE Systems of our intention to sign the contract once the company has formed."

The carriers will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever built in the UK and are expected to remain in the fleet for up to 50 years.

Mr Browne said: "They will provide our frontline forces with the modern, world-class capabilities they will need over the coming decades.

"They will support peace-keeping and conflict prevention, as well as our strategic operational priorities.

"This is an important day for the project and I am delighted we are moving closer to signing the contracts for the manufacture of the carriers."

Jamie Webster, the GMB union covener at Govan, said: "This is a very good day.

"We are confident all the foreseeable barriers have been overcome. Without being remotely complacent we see the finalising of the contracts as not a major problem.

"There can be no doubt this is a great day for the Clyde. An enormous challenge lies ahead, but it is one we will relish."

Steven Purcell, Glasgow City Council leader, said: "The carriers will be one of the biggest industrial programmes in the UK in the coming years.

"Shipyard workers on the Clyde are better trained, more efficient and better able to design and build complex warships than almost anywhere else in the world and certainly better placed to deliver than anywhere else in the UK.

"It has taken a long time to get here and this has been a hard fought campaign by workers, their unions, local MPs and, of course, the Evening Times."

Govan MSP and Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who had warned of redundancies at the yard because of delays in signing the agreement, also welcomed the announcement.

She said: "This is good news and I warmly welcome it. It proves the yards can win work on merit."

Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar added: "This is good news for Govan, Glasgow and Scotland."

BAE Systems confirmed the announcement would allow the company and the VT Group to finalise arrangements for a joint company called BVT Surface Fleet, The joint venture will combine their shipbuilding and naval support businesses, following a framework agreement signed in July 2007.

A spokesman for BAE Systems and VT Group said the companies expected the joint venture agreement to be signed soon.

BAE Systems Chief Executive Mike Turner said: "The programme will provide a strong order book and forward workload over the coming years and, most importantly, will provide our Armed Forces with significantly enhanced capability."


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