Rosyth Dockyard

Part of Petitions – in the House of Commons at 9:57 pm on 25th November 1992.

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Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet 9:57 pm, 25th November 1992

That is a fair point, but it is debatable. Others might make out a different case. We listened carefully to all those points of view and are considering whether to have two sites or one and whether there will be only one nuclear refitting site.

We have reached the point when we must consider the best way forward in the light of all the evidence that has been given to us. That evidence has covered a broad range of issues, including military, financial and other factors, and we want to get the process right.

The hon. Lady referred—as she would, given her constituency—to the proposal that we received recently from BTL. We recently received further proposals from both dockyard contractors and the parent company of the management contractor at Rosyth, Babcock International Ltd., has proposed that it should manage both dockyards, with nuclear refitting concentrated at Rosyth. That is known as the dual-site approach. We have had a similar proposal from Devonport Management Ltd., but it would be wrong for me to discuss the details of the proposals made by Babcock or Devonport because they contain so much commercially confidential information.

Both proposals are extremely constructive. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for drawing my attention to the Price, Waterhouse report, which she introduced as though it were a rather ill-smelling piece of fish, even though it seemed to substantiate her case and its conclusions. I gather that she does not have much love for accountants, even when they serve her cause.

All the documents and reports have been helpful and constructive and have assisted us to find the best way forward. They will be wholly taken into account when we announce our eventual package to the House.

The Government are fully aware of the momentous importance of the decision. As we are discussing Rosyth, we recognise how crucial it is not merely to Rosyth dockyard and its immediate surroundings, but to the people of Scotland and the economy of Fife. That importance is reflected in the good attendance at this late hour.

The impact on the local economy—on jobs and industrial strategy, to which the hon. Lady drew attention —is one among the many factors that we have to consider as we seek to balance the needs of the Navy and the taxpayer against those of south-west England and eastern Scotland, and against the more general needs of the defence of the United Kingdom and the cost-effective use of taxpayers' money and public funds.

As soon as we have proposals, we shall announce them, and we shall then be able to discuss their wider ramifications with hon. Members, local authorities, trade unions and other interested parties. That process will be immensely important in the consultation period in ensuring that we reach the right conclusion in the end.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me this chance to set out the Government's plans and proposals on this important matter.