According to In Cumbria Magazine, the Ministry of Defence has announced it will sign a contract for Astute boat seven less than 24 hours after ministers told Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock he would not have to wait long for «good news».
John hailed the announcement, made in a written statement from new defence procurement minister Guto Bebb, as a «huge relief for the workforce and UK naval security».
The breakthrough comes after several fraught months in which Ministry of Defence officials and BAE management were put under pressure to scrap the seventh boat to alleviate the defence equipment funding crisis.
In the formal statement, Mr. Bebb informed MPs: «The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has received approval in principle from Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) to recognise new contingent liabilities associated with the Astute Boat 7 ‘Whole Boat’ Contract».
The announcement paves the way for the formal contract to be signed before the end of the financial years.
Responding after meeting Mr. Bebb about the submarine programme last night, John said: «Thank goodness the government has listened to the arguments and is pressing ahead with Astute boat seven after all. This is a huge relief for the workforce and naval security which would have been gravely undermined if this vital boat had been withdrawn while Russia is modernising its submarine fleet and targeting UK interests. This announcement is a big feather in the cap for the new managing director of Barrow shipyard Cliff Robson who has successfully made the case that scrapping the boat at this late stage would waste hundreds of millions of pounds and send the build programme into disarray. Defence ministers still need to win the argument with their Treasury counterparts on releasing more money for Dreadnought early on in the build programme, but they will go into that battle with renewed confidence after this win».
Last month a leaked navy document showed the scrapping of boat seven was being actively considered.
Mr. Woodcock raised fears for the future of the defence programme, which has already seen Astute-class submarines launched from the town’s shipyard.
Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr. Woodcock claimed it would be «unthinkable» not to build the full order of submarines, given the country’s continued commitment to NATO.