DEFENCE – TYPE 45 DESTROYERS – 23 April 2001

Dr Julian Lewis: Will the Minister confirm that the only way to ensure value for money in the procurement of the type 45 destroyer programme is to be certain that more than one firm will be capable of building the ships? How can he defend the constant prevarication over whether the contract for at least one of the ships will be awarded to Vosper Thornycroft? The uncertainty over that matter is putting the jobs of my constituents who work for Vosper Thornycroft gravely at risk.

[Dr Lewis Moonie: I am happy to confirm that it is still our intention to purchase one of the ships in the manner described. Our policy on the procurement of the type 45 has not changed.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch): When the first type 45 destroyer will enter service with the Royal Navy.

Dr Moonie: As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence stated in the House on 11 July last year, we remain committed to an in-service date of 2007 for the first type 45 destroyer.

Mr Chope: The Minister said, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), that the procurement strategy had not changed. In that case, why have the Government not rejected out of hand the unsolicited bid from BAE Systems and why do they not confirm that the original strategy – which would give Vosper Thornycroft on the south coast of England an equal share in the programme – still stands? Would it not be a very good way of celebrating St. George's day to place faith in a great English warship builder that has exported more than 300 warships in the past 10 years?

Dr Moonie: It is British yards that we are in favour of – not just English ones. I repeat what I said before. The policy has not changed. Of course, it is incumbent on us to give careful consideration to proposals that would ostensibly save a great deal of money, and we would be in dereliction of our duty if we did not do that. However, I can confirm that things are progressing well and that the initial stages of the programme are on time.]