The government has delayed its two new state-of-the-art aircraft carriers, due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, by up to two years each, as it looks to redeploy MoD budget.
But this latest development should not have any adverse effect on the manufacturers involved. “Construction is already under way and will continue,” said defence secretary John Hutton. “The programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs.”
Indeed, Bernie Hamilton, national aerospace and shipbuilding officer for the union Unite, said the announcement “will secure employment for workers in the sector for many more years with a stable workload.”
Hutton, Peter Mandelson’s predecessor at BERR, said the hold-ups to the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales is because the armed forces need things like helicopters and armoured cars for its front-line troops more urgently. Also, the US built aircraft that the carriers were due to transport have also had their production postponed on a similar timescale.
The ships will cost £4 billion.
Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox refuted the government’s assurances to manufacturing, saying: “It’s a bad day for industry, as major programmes are thrown into confusion through the government’s incompetence,” while Liberal Democrat spokesman Nick Harvey labelled the move “salami slicing.”
Hutton promised, though, “There isn’t going to be a single job lost as a result of the announcement.”
The ships are being built in Portsmouth and Barrow, England and Govan and Rosyth, Scotland. The manufacturers involved include BAE, BVT Surface Fleet and Babcock Marine,