UK Government commits to future of submarine industry

Summary: The UK Government has announced funding of £285m to continue the design phase of the country’s next generation of nuclear-deterrent submarines, the Successor programme.

The Successor submarines will replace the current Vanguard vessels as part of the Government’s Trident nuclear weapons programme, based at Faslane in Scotland, and forms part of the MOD’s ten-year Defence Equipment Plan, valued at £163bn.

Sustaining jobs and security

The funding will be shared between BAE Systems (£257m), Babcock (£22m) and Rolls-Royve (£6m).

The Successor programme already employs around 2200 people in the UK between these three contractors. For BAE Systems alone, the funding will sustain over 1400 jobs on a programme that has already engaged with more than 240 firms through the supply chain.

Defence Minister Michael Fallon said: “It is thanks to our long-term economic plan that we are able to invest in this latest wave of design funding, which will help to secure the jobs of hundreds of people working across the MOD’s three main industrial partners working on the Successor programme. This underlines how important this work is to the British economy as well as the future security of the UK.

The release of funding for the design work is within the existing Successor programme’s £3.3bn Assessment Phase, which aims to have the programme underway and in production ahead of the full decision on the future of nuclear weapons in the UK in 2016.

Future of defence investment

While the £285m funding clearly outlines the Conservative-led Government’s commitment to the Successor programme and to Trident in general, the outcome of the upcoming General Election seriously calls into question the certainty of the project.

With the growing prospect of no overall majority in May’s election, it could be a smaller party which holds the balance of power in forming a coalition government.

There is a possibility of a Labour deal with the SNP to take control in Westminster, but the Scottish party has said that scrapping Trident would be one condition of an agreement. The SNP have also ruled out any deal with the Conservatives.

Other parties including the Liberal Democrats, the Greens and UKIP have all expressed concern at the award of this spending ahead of the 2016 decision on the future of Trident.

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