By Alan Tovey, Industry Editor
Telegraph Online – 3 February 2016
Two of Britain’s biggest defence projects in decades are being investigated by the Defence Select Committee in a probe that could have serious implications for the UK's arms suppliers. MPs on the Committee have written to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon questioning a lack of progress on a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear submarines. They also want to know exactly who is responsible for the repeated power failures on the Navy’s Type 45 destroyers.
Members of the Committee say there is an
“unacceptable level of uncertainty”
on the so-called “Successor” nuclear submarine programme among
“not only Parliament, but also main contractors and their supply chains”.
In a letter, committee chairman Julian Lewis said there is “growing concern” that no date has been set for a vote on whether to go ahead with the Trident replacement.
BAE Systems would be the main contractor on the massive project – costed at £31bn with a £10bn contingency fund – and the enormity of the undertaking means that many items need years of advance work. As well as BAE, major partners in the project include engineering giants Rolls-Royce and Babcock, along with about 250 smaller companies.
The Government has already authorised more than £1bn to be spent on design work, items with long lead times and expanding BAE’s dockyard in Barrow-in-Furness, but the submarines are yet to get the official go-ahead.
“The committee would be grateful for an indication of when this long anticipated vote is to be held and an explanation of any reasons for not proceeding forthwith, now that the political obstacles which existed no longer apply”,
wrote the Committee Chairman.
The Committee is also seeking clarity on the embarrassing power failures that have hit the Navy’s latest ships, the Type 45 destroyers, which entered service just seven years ago. Last week the MoD confirmed [that all] six of the vessels will need major refits that are expected to run up a repair bill of tens of millions of pounds because the £1bn warships keep breaking down.
Type 45 destroyers – which were built by BAE – run off electricity produced by Rolls-Royce gas turbines and generators through an electrical grid supplied by General Electric, powering everything from the propellers to the radar. However, running all the systems together causes the system to trip out, putting the vessel into a blackout and leaving it defenceless.
The Select Committee wants to know the details of the problems, including when they started and how often they have occurred, whether the cause is a failure of components, design or construction and who will pay to eliminate the problems.
In the letter to the Defence Secretary, Mr Lewis said:
“The reports of engine failures and the refit programme appear to reflect a far more serious problem than ‘equipment reliability issues’ as described last year by MoD ministers.”