Sending £1.6billion naval order to Spain would be 'insult' to Hebburn's A&P yard, says GMB union

Sending a £1.6billion order for new naval support ships to Spain would be ‘an insult’ to a South Tyneside shipyard, says a union boss.

GMB National Officer Matt Roberts hopes the tendering process for three new Fleet Solid Support (FSS) ships will not result in Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace awarding the contract to a consortium led by Spanish government-owned company Navantia.

The union, which has long campaigned for the ships to be built in the UK, is calling for demanded a cast iron shipbuilding guarantees for the North East and has written to the Secretary of State warning of the potential impact of the move, particularly on the A&P Tyne shipyard in Hebburn.

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The GMB estimates that at least £285million would be returned to the UK taxpayer through income tax, national insurance contributions and lower welfare payments if the ships were built here rather than on the continent.

Shipbuilding and ship repair employment in Great Britain has fallen by 80,000 jobs since the early 1980s – a decline the union says threatens the UK’s sovereign defence manufacturing capability at a time when security is increasingly critical.

Mr Roberts said: “Sending parts of the FSS order to Spain rather than delivering all the work in the UK is an insult to our shipyards, including A&P Tyne. Our yards produce world-class ships but we urgently need investment and a steady pipeline of orders. The Defence Secretary must reassure GMB members and the public there will be adequate oversight to ensure foreign bidders cannot and do not renege on their obligations.

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“The UK should prioritise the maintenance and strengthening of our sovereign defence manufacturing capabilities.”

A&P Tyne in Hebburn