Stephen Hepburn MP: Pushing for Navy contracts – why the defence of Britain should be built on Tyneside

The Queen Elizabeth arrives at Portsmouth. Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA Wire
The Queen Elizabeth arrives at Portsmouth. Ian Simpson/Royal Navy/PA Wire

Our area is rightly tremendously proud of our shipbuilding and ship repair workers.

The North East of England used to be the industries’ hub of the world until the Tory vandals sank much of it.

But it remains one of our key industries and I always do everything I can to promote a key generator of wages and prosperity in our area.

So I got stuck in when a Conservative Government holed below the waterline launched a National Shipbuilding Strategy including plans for new cut-price Type 31 frigate warships for the Royal Navy.

The idea floated by industrialist Sir John Parker has been accepted so in future new warships for the Royal Navy will be built in blocks across many UK yards and then assembled at a central hub, rather than constructed exclusively at the BAE System complex on the Clyde in Scotland.

Opening competition to more yards north and south of the border in England is potentially a glorious opportunity for the likes of A&P Tyne in Hebburn, which did fantastic work for the aircraft carriers HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales and is fulfilling contracts for Astute class submarines.

A&P Tyne proves what we can do and its record of completing work on time on the Tyne is hugely beneficial to the company, both financially and in terms of reputation.

So the possibility that a juicy slice of prestigious contracts could be on its way to our region is a tantalising prospect for the yard and its workforce.

What I want to ensure is that the bidding process is carried out on a level playing field. If so I’ve no doubt A&P Tyne will win.

As a local lad born and bred up here I know the value of work and putting our case so I’m glad to tell you the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, has accepted my invitation to visit the Jarrow parliamentary constituency and see for himself what we have to offer.

We must pull out all the stops to keep our yards building and repairing ships.

I want the defence of Britain to be built on a Tyneside with a brilliant maritime history and bright future.

How fantastic would it be if A&P Tyne workers, including young apprentices setting sail on a career making things we need, were guaranteed work on ships which are vital to our country’s security.

When the time comes to award the contracts, I’ll lobby the powers that be hard to ensure they maximise the employment of British labour and create apprenticeships to give the young the opportunities they deserve.

And when he comes to the North East, I’m confident the Defence Secretary will be extremely impressed by A&P’s skilled workforce as well as the first class facilities on offer.

I’ll be happy if he leaves with a greater understanding that our yards, workers and management are committed to winning those future orders after proving their ability to deliver on time and on budget.

What is already disappointing is the Tory refusal to guarantee the new frigates will be built with British steel and components wherever possible to maximise the jobs created and fly the flag for Britain.

That’s a regrettable missed opportunity to fuel investment to the British steel industry and reflects a wider Tory complete lack of commitment to UK manufacturing.

We’ve the people and the expertise to build a better Britain.

The problem is when the Tories won’t let us do it.