Rosyth royal dockyard has always carried out a significant element of Royal Navy surface ship refit work, and will continue to do so. I am pleased to announce the decision to award the upkeep contracts for HMS Edinburgh and HMS Walney to BSSL—Babcock Support Services Ltd.—at Rosyth. I pay tribute to the work force and management at Rosyth dockyard for their success in being awarded these contracts.
I sincerely thank my right hon. Friend for giving such excellent news to Rosyth and to Scotland, and for praising the Rosyth work force, who stand out for delivering ships at or below cost, on or before time and to the highest standards. Does he agree that the UK's defence industrial base will benefit from maintaining Rosyth's naval and maritime skills in the lead-up to its playing a major part in the construction of the future aircraft carrier?
Let me pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has been assiduous in supporting the case for Rosyth and has been in almost daily contact with me, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence or the Minister of State for Defence Procurement, the noble Lord Bach. Her hard work has paid off, and she is also right to pay tribute to the work force and management at Rosyth dockyard. As for Rosyth's future shipbuilding capabilities, it is one of the four yards named last year with the potential to be involved in the construction and assembly of the new future aircraft carriers. While I cannot confirm Rosyth's future involvement in the carrier programme at this stage, this is none the less promising for the future.
Does the Minister accept that the future of both Rosyth and Faslane is bound up with that of the strategic nuclear deterrent? While appreciating that specific systems will be decided on in the next Parliament rather than in this one, can he send a signal of encouragement to the communities in Rosyth and Faslane that the Government still accept in principle that Britain should continue to possess a strategic nuclear deterrent as long as other countries have nuclear weapons?
I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads the White Paper to get the answer to the latter part of his question. I am sure that he will understand that the life cycles of the nuclear deterrent and the boats that carry it last for long years, so the future for many years ahead is assured for those who carry out the support work. I reflect that not so many months ago, I announced the retention of about 1,000 jobs—I think that that is the correct figure—at Faslane for 25 years. We hardly got any recognition in the Scottish press for that statement. I just hope that they report the good news for Rosyth.
Although the Minister's recent announcement about orders being placed is welcome, may I ask him what steps he is taking to investigate claims made by the work force in Rosyth that the playing field is biased against them by unfair subsidies given by the MOD to their competitors? What steps is he taking to end the hunger-and-burst system of orders with the introduction of a best-value system that smoothes out procurement work?
I am not sure whether my hon. Friend heard my original answer, but this is good news for Rosyth. It has won the contract, not lost it, and I am sure that all the other yards may ask whether there is a level playing field in such circumstances. Obviously, if any dockyard or shipbuilder offers substantive evidence to prove bias, we must investigate it. The way in which my hon. Friend poses the question, however, is not based on fact.