Indeed. When we speak to defence contractors, we find it is a sad fact that they are not being required to put those details into the bids they make. We very much hope to see that change. I hope that this is an urgent step on that way. The approach has been endorsed by the Defence Committee and has received the support of the trade body, ADS, as well as the defence trade unions such as Unite, GMB and Prospect.
The contract for the fleet solid support ships would bring immense value to this country if it were awarded to a UK bidder. Our carriers, frigates and destroyers will, of course, always be built in the UK, but with ships such as the fleet solid support vessels, the Government have a choice to make, and Labour Members believe that they are making the wrong one by choosing to put this order out to international competition. I know that some in the Conservative party like to blame everything on the European Union, but the fact is that the Government would be able to procure these ships in the UK under existing EU law, and there are compelling reasons for doing so. The GMB trade union has estimated that the ships would support 6,700 jobs if they were built in UK yards and up to £285 million of the £800 million potential UK spend would be returned to the Treasury through taxation.
The case for buying British is clear, and it would be a betrayal of our UK workers if this contract were allowed to go overseas, so we need to question what is really driving Ministers to put this out to overseas bidders. Perhaps it is the view that there will be a lower price tag for the MOD. We all want to get the best value for money, and we are aware of the difficulties that the MOD is having in balancing its budget, but this short-sighted, narrow, silo mentality about what might look good on the MOD’s balance sheet ignores both the benefits to the UK economy of building the ships in Britain and the costs of not doing so. We as taxpayers all want to see value for our money, and taxpayers up and down the country would far rather see that money spent on supporting skilled jobs for workers here in the UK than see it spent abroad, knowing that some 30% of the money spent on wages will come back directly to the Treasury as taxation, and that the spending power of those workers and their families will sustain local businesses in their communities.