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Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening observations. I shall do my best to deal with the important issues that he raises.

As I said in my statement, design co-operation has gone extremely well. I see no reason why that co-operation should not continue with the same success—with both companies fully represented in the design team and with people working successfully together.

It is not right to say that we have ended competition policy, but neither is it right to suggest that competition was the only means whereby successive Governments delivered vital defence equipment. The purpose of our approach is to ensure the best value for taxpayers' money. Competition may be one way of delivering best value, but it is not the only way. In any event, the decision will allow Vosper's and BAE Systems Marine to plan their forward investment programme and to develop appropriate facilities to ensure that both shipyards can compete not only for future Royal Navy orders but for orders from around the world. The key point for our shipbuilding industry is that our shipbuilding companies should be given a platform from which they can properly invest and that—crucially for them—allows them to compete for the many orders that exist throughout the world.

The point about savings is that by allowing each company to build the same sections of each ship, on a progressive learning curve, not only will they build in the ensuing efficiency benefits but they will enable us to make savings as the work progresses. That was a major factor in deciding on our approach.

I think that the hon. Gentleman rather misses the point about equipment for the type 45. At this stage, it is not necessarily the case that we shall design in all the equipment required by those ships. Indeed, one of the problems in the procurement of warships in the past was that the ships were so heavily over-designed that as their role changed to meet new realities, there was not enough flexibility to allow the incorporation of new ideas, new thinking and, crucially, new equipment. That is why we have not yet taken all the decisions about equipment and,

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more important, why there will be flexibility on the ships in order to be able to adjust to the changing strategic reality.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): I thank my right hon. Friend for the announcement. I am pleased that yet again the Clyde has been given the opportunity to show that it can meet this country's present requirements and its future needs.

Will my right hon. Friend tell us what has happened to the ALSL orders that were supposed to have come on line in June? What will happen to the present work force? How can they be kept in employment during the coming months? It is my understanding that the diagrams and so on for the ALSLs are not due to be received until next year so obviously there is a shortfall of work, especially at the Scotstoun yard in my constituency. At present, members of its work force are having to go down south.

Will my right hon. Friend shed some light on what BAE Systems is saying? I and several colleagues have had great difficulty in getting any information from the company about what it has been doing. Will my right hon. Friend intercede on our behalf to find out exactly what BAE Systems plans to do? As a trade union official said to me, the silence coming from the company is deafening.

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his general welcome for the proposals. I shall deal as best I can with his concerns, especially those relating to the plans of BAE Systems, although I must point out to him and to the House that commercial judgments as to the organisation of particular companies are obviously matters for those companies.

The proposal allows planning to take place over 10 years, to give a guaranteed level of work to BAE Systems and Vosper's. Both companies have welcomed that; it will allow them to go into the market and to compete successfully, I hope, for orders not only from the Royal Navy but from around the world. Notwithstanding that this is a very exciting programme of warship orders, it amounts to about 30 ships—a fraction of the total number of ships procured around the world each year—but it will provide both companies with some stability.

As for the ALSLs, I gave no undertakings about the start of work on those ships. Last year, I said when the work could begin, and that statement was based on the best information then available from the two companies. I share my hon. Friend's disappointment that work has not yet started, but we continue to hope that the two companies involved will reconcile their different approaches to design and build, and that they can eliminate the difficulties that have developed and can proceed to cut steel in due course.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): I, too, thank the Secretary of State for his courtesy in supplying me with details of his statement in advance. I warmly welcome the news that the Royal Navy will get six new warships—it certainly needs them. I congratulate him on embarking on this new concept in warship building. The concept has been tried in other parts of the world—most notably, in the United States—with some success, and we certainly welcome the approach.

The Secretary of State mentioned the RAND recommendations; will he place at least a summary of them in the Library, so that we can know some of the

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conclusions? Does he agree that the viability of the British shipyards depends not only on their being able to compete now, but on their retaining the capability to compete in the future? Will he therefore be a bit more specific about the breakdown in the overall order to the individual companies and yards involved? That would certainly help the House to assess the order more fully. Is there enough work, for example, in Scotstoun on the Clyde to ensure that the 1,000 or so job losses suggested in the press today do not happen?

The Secretary of State mentioned equipment, and I certainly agree that we need flexibility in our warship design. Will he therefore confirm whether the Sylver launcher, which will be fitted to the type 45s, will be capable of carrying a land-attack missile, such as Tomahawk, in addition to Aster? The vessels would be much more potent if they had that capability. Does he agree that the lessons of the type 82 programme, cancelled in the 1960s after CVA01 was cancelled, show that warship programmes are interdependent? Is it not the case that the order for the final 12 of those ships is dependent on the overall concept of retaining the two carriers, which lies at the heart of the Government's expeditionary proposals?

Mr. Hoon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his support. I shall try to deal with as many of the points he raises as I can. If I omit to answer any of his questions, I will certainly write to him.

As for the report, I said that we have now had the early, emerging findings from the study. A good deal of further work is still to be done, but I see no reason why we could not place a copy of the report in the Library, subject only to one exception: obviously, RAND has had available on a confidential basis some commercially sensitive details that I would not consider it appropriate to publish. With that exception, I shall seek to publish the study when it is finally completed.

As for the breakdown between the companies, essentially, each company will be guaranteed a share of the sections. The hon. Gentleman will probably be aware that these days most ships of this size are constructed in sections—whether in a single yard or in a number of yards—and the basis of the allocation is to guarantee Vosper's work on particular sections of the type 45 design and for the Clyde to have the remainder, with the assembly taking place at Barrow-in-Furness, with the exception of the first of class.

As for land-attack missiles, in answer to an earlier question I referred to the importance of preserving some flexibility. Vertically launched missiles could be launched from such platforms if that were judged at the time to be a relevant capability. That is precisely the kind of flexibility necessary to leave in place on those ships without trying to over-design their capabilities at this stage, as we are not entirely clear what the strategic landscape will be when they are in service.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): Although the shipyard gate of Scotstoun is in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Anniesland (John Robertson), the rest of the yard is in mine. I therefore join his welcome for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's announcement, which will guarantee a very healthy future in the medium and long term for

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shipbuilding on the Clyde. That is as it should be. First of class, world-class Clyde-built is still recognised as an important brand around the world.

Although only one fifth of the Scottish National party's Members are here to stand up for Scotland, the statement further demonstrates the value to the Scottish economy of our being within the United Kingdom. If we were not, we would have no Royal Navy, and no orders would be being placed this afternoon.

The one thing that is stopping tin hats being thrown in the air and the Secretary of State's name being chanted joyously on the Clyde is the fact that, as I understand it, the work force are being informed that this Friday, 1,000 people, rather than breaking up for the Glasgow fair as they had hoped, will be on the slippery slope towards redundancy, through no fault of their own. The ALSL drawings should have been there and the work should have been started. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State promised the House last year that the work would be started in the middle of this year.

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the four oilers proposal? I accept that he has no particular budget for it this year, but the company tells us that it would be cost-neutral for the Ministry. If it builds them now, it can pay for them later at no extra cost.

Will my right hon. Friend also assure the House that he will work closely with the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive to try to ensure that the skills base on the Clyde is not scattered by the announcement of 1,000 redundancies and that, in particular, the jobs of the apprentices are saved? Without apprentices, we will have no shipbuilding industry in the future.

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