A Tyne & Wear MP is fighting for a lucrative government shipbuilding contract in his constituency.
When the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, first gave his statement on the National Shipbuilding Strategy on 6 September, Stephen Hepburn, the Labour MP for Jarrow was quick to see the opportunity for the local A&P Group:
“I welcome today’s statement, not least because it gives an opportunity to A&P Tyne in my constituency, which did fantastic work on the aircraft carrier. I am sure that A&P will be considered for further work, but will the Secretary of State assure me that that will be the case?”
The Cabinet Minister acknowledged the region, its history and the pedigree of its work in his response:
“A&P has already made a contribution to the construction of the carrier and it is contributing to the construction of the Astute class submarines. I very much hope that it will be involved in the competition. This is an opportunity for the Tyne, which was previously shut out when the monopoly was granted in favour of BAE Systems in Scotland, so this is good news for Tyneside and the other English yards.”
However, Mr Fallon fell short of making assurances that the National Strategy would bring more shipbuilding work to the region. As a result, Mr Hepburn has again contacted the Secretary of State for Defence concerning the National Shipbuilding Strategy, writing to him on October 9th to ask what role the shipyards in Jarrow will play.
Harriett Baldwin, the undersecretary to Mr Fallon, has since given this written response:
“The National Shipbuilding Strategy introduces competition for all future naval shipbuilding programmes. We encourage all UK shipyards to take part in these competitions. Whether a shipyard wishes to bid for a competition is a commercial decision for them.”
Perhaps the only certainty is the tenacity with which Mr Hepburn continues to pursue the issue on behalf of his constituents.