Page last updated at 15:56 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Carriers delay 'good for yards'

Artist's impression of new carrier
The carriers were originally scheduled to enter service in 2014 and 2016

A delay in a 4bn project to build two Royal Navy aircraft carriers has been welcomed by unions.

The defence secretary said the vessels were likely to enter service one or two years later than expected, following a review of MoD spending.

The Unite and GMB unions said it was great news for shipbuilding workers as the yards would be in work for longer.

However, the SNP, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems said it would cause uncertainty about jobs.

Work on the project is still due to begin next spring, as originally planned.

The vessels, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, were due to enter service in 2014 and 2016, but that will now be pushed back a year or two.

Contracts were signed in July and the work was expected to create or underpin a total of 10,000 jobs at yards in Appledore in north Devon, Portsmouth, Barrow-in-Furness, Glasgow and Rosyth.

The carriers will be the biggest and most powerful surface warships ever constructed for the Royal Navy.

This is good news for the shipyards building the two aircraft carriers
Keith Hazelwood
GMB
Defence Secretary John Hutton said: "The programme will still provide stability for the core shipyard workforce, including 10,000 UK jobs."

He said the carriers' timetable was being brought more closely in line with the introduction of the Joint Combat Aircraft which they will carry.

A spokesperson for Unite said: "It is great news for our members and workers in the shipbuilding industry in the UK.

"This announcement will mean that the peaks of work that the two carriers brought will be flattened out.

"It will secure employment for workers in the sector for many more years with a stable workload."

Keith Hazlewood from the GMB said the announcment meant the programme would continue "with no major effect on jobs".

"This is good news for the shipyards building the two aircraft carriers," he said.

Glasgow South West MP Ian Davidson said: "The good news is that the biggest naval order since the Second World War will remain in place.

Today's announcement raises fresh doubts about whether Labour is really committed to the carrier programme
David Mundell
Conservative MP
"The better news in my view is that the order is going to be spun out, which means that the yards will be in work longer.

"What's likely to happen is that there will be less sub-contract work and more done in-house."

However, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the delay as a "major mistake".

"Workers at BVT will be concerned today at the impact of these delays on their jobs," she said.

"As usual the Ministry of Defence have made bold promises to workers in Glasgow which are rapidly being broken.

"John Hutton must guarantee there are no job losses as a result of the Labour government's decision to delay these carriers."

'Heads spinning'

The Lib Dem defence spokesperson, Willie Rennie, said delaying the carriers risked increases in costs.

He said: "As we emerge from the recession the cost of materials will rise forcing up the cost of the carriers.

"The ink has just dried on the carriers contract but now heads will be spinning at Rosyth and on the Clyde.

"This announcement will cause huge uncertainty at Scotland's shipyards."

The Conservative MP David Mundell said Scottish yards were disproportionately affected, with 4,600 of the carrier jobs located north of the border.

"Thousands now face uncertainty over how they will be affected by the decision to spin out the work over a further two years," he said.

"Indeed, today's announcement raises fresh doubts about whether Labour is really committed to the carrier programme."

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