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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary contract for a new fleet of solid support vessels; and what assessment he has made of the potential effect of that contract on the level of UK (a) commercial shipbuilding and (b) merchant seafarers.
The Secretary of State and his officials regularly discuss a range of issues with their counterparts in the Ministry of Defence.
The National Shipbuilding Strategy is transforming the way that the Ministry of Defence procures naval ships. Through this Strategy, MOD continues to focus on supporting the sector to become more innovative, productive and competitive.
As non-warships, the Fleet Solid Support ships are being procured through international competition. The Ministry of Defence has however encouraged UK companies to participate and have been pleased with the positive engagement with UK shipyards and the wider supply chain to date.
No direct assessments have been made on the effects of the contract on the level of UK commercial shipbuilding or merchant seafarers.
It should however be noted that the Royal Fleet Auxiliary is one of the biggest employers of UK ratings and still maintains a nationality requirement for recruitment which is open only to British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens.