Defence minister tight-lipped on time-frame for new Navy frigates

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A defence minister has been unresponsive in confirming when the next line of Royal Navy warships would be built.

Tory MP Harriet Baldwin shrugged off calls from SNP and Labour MPs for a confirmed time-frame around cutting steel for eight new Type 26 frigates.

Ms Baldwin told MPs in Westminster that the timing of the award of the build contract and the build schedule are integral to ongoing negotiations between the government and BAE Systems.

She said during the Westminster Hall debate: ‘We are negotiating a deal that aims to optimise the requirements of the Royal Navy in terms of the capability the ships will deliver, to achieve value for money for defence and the taxpayer, and to deliver a build schedule that drives performance.

‘These negotiations are continuing, so I am not this afternoon in a position to give a specific date as to when an agreement will be reached.

‘To protect the commercial interests of the Ministry of Defence, disclosing any such detail would be inappropriate at this time.’

The defence minister also resisted calls to disclose a more detailed explanation behind delays and cuts to the project, which has already been cut from 13 new ships.

A May target to start cutting steel for the ships, which are due to be built in Scotland, has been delayed indefinitely.

SNP defence spokesman Brendan O’Hara predicts that construction would not start until summer 2017.