politics

Peers round on government over foreign steel in Navy warships and submarines


Ministers were urged to buy British – but insisted no UK plants produced the metal needed

Foreign steel is being used in the Dreadnought submarine programme, as exclusively revealed by the Mirror in 2016

Britain’s reliance on foreign steel for Royal Navy nuclear submarines and warships is “an appalling state of affairs”, peers were told today.

A Government minister said specialist metal required to make Trident-armed Dreadnought subs and Type 31 light frigates could not be supplied from the UK.

But industrial leaders and unions have repeatedly said if they were given enough notice and sufficient orders, they would be able to manufacture the products needed.

Speaking in the Lords, Tory frontbencher Viscount Younger claimed: “It would be great if British ships could be made from British steel.

“However, the steel required for the particular ships that are being built – both the surface ships and the submarines – is highly specialised.”







UK plants do not produce some of the specialist steel required, according to the Government
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Getty)

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Shadow Defence Minister Lord Coaker fumed: “Isn’t it an appalling state of affairs that with the Government spending billions of pounds on boosting our naval power that we have to go abroad for much of our steel?

“Rather than describing the problem, how are we going to boost the British shipbuilding industry so that British naval ships are built with British steel?”

Former head of the Navy Admiral Lord West, who triggered today’s debate, said importing metal for naval vessels stripped the UK of “sovereign capability”.







Former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, Admiral Lord West
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PA)

The ex-First Sea Lord added: “There is a need for a sovereign capability to build ships and part of that is the steel that is used to build them.”

Campaigners urged the Government to back British industry.

UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace said: “Steel is absolutely fundamental to the UK’s capability to function as a modern industrial economy.







UK Steel director-general Gareth Stace
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Edward Moss Photography)

“Targeted government procurement to support the UK’s steel sector – be it in shipbuilding or infrastructure – not only supports the steel sector and the thousands of jobs it provides, but strengthens national resilience, improves our sovereign capability and encourages investment in UK manufacturing supply chains.”

Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions general secretary Ian Waddell warned: “Both steel and shipbuilding are strategically important industries for the United Kingdom and our naval procurement programme should ensure that British ships are built in British shipyards using British steel.

“It beggars belief that the Government minister has said that we no longer have the capacity to produce the steel used for submarine hulls when we were able to do so just a few short years ago.”







Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions general secretary Ian Waddell
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Courtesy of the CSEU)

The GMB union said years of cuts to Britain’s shipbuilding and steel industries “have created a vicious cycle and vital jobs and skills are being lost”.

National officer Ross Murdoch added: “There is a real opportunity here to secure investment in our steel industry, including in grades of steel that are currently manufactured abroad.

“The security of our essential supply chains is a matter of national defence.”

Community steelworkers’ union’s operations director Alasdair McDiarmid said: “A commitment to buying Britain’s steel is an investment in Britain.







Community union operations director Alasdair McDiarmid
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Community union)

“Contracts like those for the Dreadnought and Type 31 programmes should not be awarded solely on the basis of cost, but must properly take into account the social and environmental benefits of sourcing locally.

“Buying Britain’s steel supports thousands of jobs, benefits our economy, provides value to the taxpayer and is better for the environment.”

The Mirror has been campaigning to Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by plant closures and thousands of job losses in 2015.





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