Jeremy Corbyn: Keep Shipbuilding in the UK

Jeremy Corbyn will today announce his support for the shipbuilding industry in the UK, after the Tories threatened to tender a shipbuilding contract with £1 billion to overseas companies, even though it could create up to 6,500 jobs.

 

The decision by the government to put the contract out to tender has been widely condemned by trade unions in shipbuilding. The number of people working in shipbuilding in the UK has fallen from an estimated 122,200 in 1981 to just 32,000 today.

The last contract put out to tender overseas, which was secured by the South Korean firm Daewoo Shipbuilding, has been hit by cost overruns and severe delays. But the Tories’ commitment to the free market and outsourcing might be one of their only firm principles.

Labour has promised a pro-active approach to protecting and expanding heavy industries like shipbuilding, and this includes using procurement laws to spur local development. Their strong support for the industry has been seen as key in Labour's success in Plymouth during the local elections.

In a speech in Govan today, Jeremy Corbyn MP is expected to say:

“Workers in British shipyards, from Plymouth to Rosyth, share a proud tradition - building the best ships in the world. But the Conservative government is trashing that tradition by offering up the Ministry of Defence’s most recent contract for three new Fleet Solid Support Ships to overseas companies to build abroad.

“This decision is wrong. Today we are calling on the Government to guarantee that these three new ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary will be built in domestic shipyards.

“Building these ships in Britain would benefit those working in and supporting our world-class shipbuilding industry. Over 6,500 workers could be employed through this contract, 1,800 of them in shipyards. Decisive public intervention in support of this vital industry would protect it from anti-competitive practices by overseas firms and other states.

“By refusing to help our industry thrive, the Conservatives are continuing their historic trend of hollowing out and closing down British industry. Over the course of the 1980s under the Tories, 75,000 jobs were lost in UK shipyards, leaving just 32,000 remaining.

“Our shipyards used to produce half of all new ships worldwide. Our current market share is now less than half a per cent. The Tories seem hell-bent on accelerating and deepening this industrial decline.

“The next Labour government will use public contracts as part of our bigger plans to upgrade our economy. Don’t listen to anyone who says we can’t build things in Britain and that a casino economy, which produces little but soaring inequality and insecurity, is our only future. Shipbuilding is not a lame duck, and can have a high tech, high skilled and exciting future right here in the UK.

“We can make sure that happens, but only if we reject the Tories’ outdated free market obsession that gives the whip hand to out-of-control multinational companies and doesn’t care about the everyday needs and wishes of workers and consumers.”

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