Year 2000 No. 182, October 27, 2000
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
New Landing Ship and Sea Lift Capability Contracts
For Your Information: SNP on Govan Yard Orders
For Your Reference: Geoff Hoons Announcement
As Iraq Sanctions Crumble, The Opposition Builds!
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On Thursday, the government announced contracts on warship building under its "Strategic Defence Review" for "landing ships" and "strategic sea lift requirement" worth £1.25 billion. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said that the plan "will deliver early and significant improvements to our Armed Forces ability to deploy rapidly and effectively world-wide. It is another significant step forward in implementing the Strategic Defence Review." The government is to buy four Alternative Landing Ship Logistics (ALSL) to replace the Landing Ship logistics (LSL). The Ministry of Defence is procuring the ALSLs because "they can embark the largest balance of men, vehicles and stores that will sustain an amphibious assault". According to the announcement, two of these vessels will be built by Swan Hunter on Tyneside and two by BAE Systems Marine at Govan in Scotland.
As part of this contract the government has also announced a preferred bidder in a Private Finance Initiative PFI for a "sea lift" capability. In announcing it the government statement said that the "operational experience has demonstrated the difficulties in obtaining suitable ships to move military equipment in the short timescales demanded by the Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, and for the Armed Forces needs in operations worldwide". When not required for the "Rapid Reaction Force" the ships will be used by the company for commercial use but the PFI contract will be worth approximately £950 million over 25 years, depending upon the amount of operational usage. In this contract, AWSR Shipping will build two ships at the Harland and Wolf shipyard in Belfast and four ships at the Flensburger yard in Germany.
In making the announcement the government laid the main stress on the "jobs" that the new contracts would create. Tony Blair even went to Harland and Wolf in Belfast to pose as the saviour of that yard which is in economic difficulties. But even in these terms the government was hard pressed to make this convincing with the majority of the work on the contracts going abroad because the government has to "observe European regulations".
What is as significant about the announcement is the nature of the contract for military rather than merchant shipping, which the government has studiously avoided commenting on. It is now well-known that Tony Blairs programme is to make "Britain Great Again" by launching even more adventurous actions abroad to the detriment of the sovereignty of the peoples. It is a fact that Landing Ships (LSL) were most recently deployed operationally when two formed part of the amphibious task group for "Op Palliser" in Sierra Leone. Britain's colonial legacy to the African country has been one of impoverishment, division, attempted destruction of its culture, and a continuing plunder of its mineral and other natural resources which has persisted to this day where the government's intervention under "enlightened self interest" has been in reality one of sordid self interest. In other words, the military nature of the contract cannot be said to be related to the premise that any maritime country needs a navy for defence of that countrys sovereignty. "Defence contracts" in this connection is a misnomer.
Also, while the shipyard workers should not shut their eyes to the direction the government is taking the shipbuilding industry, it is equally the case the destruction of the shipbuilding industry cannot be reversed by relying on military contracts. On the contrary such procurement is becoming a factor for its increased destruction as the national economy is itself abandoned, as different shipyard companies compete for contracts which are increasingly used to finance the rich through the introduction of the PFI.
For the workers the issue continues to be one of defending their interests and taking a lead in the upholding the general interests of society. Their own alternative programme must include a modern shipbuilding industry that contributes to a society where the people are empowered to take the decisions and where the economy is run to meet the needs of the people.
For Your Information:
Commenting on Thursdays announcement that BAE Systems Govan yard has lost the contract to build six roll-on roll-off ferries, but has won an order to build two amphibious ALSLs (Alternative Landing Ships Logistic), Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow, said:
"The SNP welcomes the decision to award the contract for two amphibious ALSLs to Govan shipyards, but shares the disappointment of the workers in not winning the lucrative roll-on roll-off ferries order.
"It is a tribute to the tenacity of the workforce, in particular Jamie Webster, that Govan has been awarded the contract to build two Ministry of Defence vessels. They have been facing uncertainty for some time now and there is no doubt todays order has been secured by them.
"However, concerns remain about the yards immediate future. For example, the Govan shipyards order book will be empty by the end of the year, and Geoff Hoon announced in the Commons that work on the new contract could begin by the middle of next year. It appears, therefore that there will be at least six months when the order book is empty. The workforce must be given immediate and cast iron assurances that there will be no job losses during this period.
"Although this new contract is to be welcomed and hopefully offers a real long term future for the yard, no amount of New Labour spin can disguise the fact that Govan has won a contract worth an estimated 200 million pounds but lost an order worth one billion pounds."
For Your Reference:
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon yesterday announced the selection of preferred bidders for the MODs landing ship and Strategic Sealift requirements. He said
"I am delighted to announce today a package of work worth £1.25 billion that will deliver early and significant improvements to our Armed Forces ability to deploy rapidly and effectively world-wide. It is another significant step forward in implementing the Strategic Defence Review. I am particularly pleased that, as a consequence of these decisions, we have been able to secure over 2,000 jobs and create 1,000 new jobs in the UKs shipbuilding industry."
According to a press release from the Mariam Appeal, aircraft from all over the world are now breaching sanctions on Iraq, landing in Baghdad, bringing not just humanitarian aid and solidarity, but some of the world's leading politicians and dignitaries.
This weekend, the release says, in what will be the largest and most prestigious gathering of international opponents to the US and British-imposed sanctions policy, more than 50 delegates from 15 different countries will meet in Brussels to strengthen links and plot strategy for what is hoped will be the final push to demolish the blockade on Iraq. Among the delegates will be politicians, deputies and Members of Parliament from Europe and the Middle East.
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