Unions and Birkenhead MP slate PM’s £4 billion shipbuilding plan after Cammell Laird visit

The Prime Minister visited the Birkenhead dockyard to announce the Government’s £4 billion shipbuilding investment.

Union leaders and Birkenhead’s Labour MP have slated Boris Johnson’s £4 billion shipbuilding plan, after the Prime Minister visited the Cammell Laird dockyard to announce the scheme on Thursday.

The Prime Minister said that in the next 30 years another 130 warships will be built by the UK, driving tens of thousands of jobs.

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However, the GMB and Unite, which represent workers at shipyards across the country, criticised the announcement as a “facade” and “disastrous”.

While local MP Mick Whitley said the “strategy fails to give British shipyards the cast-iron guarantees of work that they need”.

Boris Johnson holds a news conference at the Cammell Laird shipyard. Photo: PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Criticism of the new National Shipbuilding Strategy

Unite said that under the plans, UK yards will be allowed to bid for work, but will then subcontract the design and building of ships to foreign companies.

National officer Rhys McCarthy said: “The Government’s promises to ensure additional work for UK shipyards and UK workers is completely hollow when work can be bid for in the UK and then transferred abroad.

“The UK shipbuilding industry needs a constant drumbeat of work so it can invest in the future.

“Companies bidding for UK Government shipbuilding contracts must be required to design, build and maintain the new vessels in the UK.”

A sign reading “Boris loves Russian money” is attached to a fence near the Cammell Laird shipyard. Photo: PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The huge investment announcement aimed to galvanise shipyards and suppliers across the country, including Cammell Laird.

But Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead, was not convinced by the plan.

The Labour MP said: “After months of delay, I’m glad that the Government has at last come forward with their refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

“But while a 30-year pipeline for the industry is welcome, this strategy fails to give British shipyards the cast-iron guarantees of work that they need.

“I’ve consistently called on ministers to adopt a policy of building in Britain by default. Today’s announcement contains no such commitment.”

Mr Whitley added: “There are a wealth of highly-skilled jobs, training opportunities, and skills in British shipbuilding and shipyards like Cammell Laird have a vital role to play in levelling-up left-behind towns like Birkenhead.

“But the Government is set to continue selling out British shipyards by sending work abroad.

“Building in Britain isn’t just about protecting jobs and work, it’s also vital to safeguarding our national security in a fast-changing and increasingly volatile world.”

Boris Johnson at Cammell Laird

The Prime Minister flew into Wirral by helicopter on Thursday, landing at Tranmere Rovers’ Prenton Park. He then travelled to Cammell Laird, where he met apprentices, who showed him how to measure up parts for a ship.

While there, he and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace went aboard HMS Dauntless, which has been undergoing a refit at the dock.

Boris Johnson sits on the bridge of HMS Dauntless during a visit to the Cammel Laird. Photo: PHIL NOBLE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

They were shown around by Commanding Officer Ben Power and met the ship’s crew.

The £4 billion fund for the new vessels was announced in the 2020 spending review and the 2021 autumn budget.

The new vessels will include large warships, such as Fleet Solid Support (FSS), Type 26 and Type 31 ships, and Border Force cutters, lighthouse vessels and the new National Flagship, said the Ministry of Defence.

The UK’s shipbuilding industry currently supports 42,600 jobs across the UK, from Belfast to Birkenhead, and contributes more than £2.8 billion to the economy, Downing Street said.