HOPES are rising that abandoned plans for a Clyde ‘frigate factory” will be resurrected, a shipbuilder turned MP has said.

Labour’s Paul Sweeney helped draw up proposals for a multi-million-pound state-of-the-art dock hall at Glasgow’s Scotstoun yard before he turned to politics.

However, his former employers at BAE, which owns the yard, dropped the idea as the UK Government scaled back and slowed down a much-mooted order for the Royal Navy’s next generation of frigates.

Now Mr Sweeney says new thinking on shipbuilding in Whitehall could see the structure built after all.

The MP - citing anonymous briefings - said the “aspiration” of officials would be to have two main UK production centres for fighting ships, each with a long-term commitment of orders.

The first such base would be the Clyde, which would be expected to churn out vessels - both complex Type 26 frigates already on order and a future replacement of T ype 45 destroyers - using the same basic hull.


Scotstoun yard where frigate factory was planned

Such a long-term commitment, he said, should enable BAE Systems to invest in the kind of covered dock hall where such vessels could be made away from Glasgow’s rain and wind for decades to come.

Mr Sweeney said: “It is important that BAE seeks that sort of long-term commitment from the MoD that would give it the confidence to look at investment in a facility like the so-called frigate factory.”

A single factory - as opposed to the current arrangements across both the Scotstoun and Govan yards - should cut the unit costs of every ship it makes. It would also create new capacity on the Clyde for other work.

The MoD this week shelved a competition for another, cheaper kind of frigate, a type 31 for which the Upper Clyde yards cannot compete because of capacity issues.

Rival bids for this work - originally assumed to be heading to the Upper Clyde - would include potential multi-site manufacturing in England and Scotland.

Mr Sweeney said Type 31s could be made at sites such as Cammell Laird at Mersey or Rosyth on the Forth. Such vessels are designed for what the navy calls constabulary duties - fighting pirates or providing aid - rather than a full-on war with the navies of a modern state. But they nevertheless “pack a punch”, said Mr Sweeney and have export potential.

But Type 31s may well end up being sold as “nearly new” after a few years of service in the Royal Navy, meaning a buyer state would avoid any snagging issues.

He said: “That would maintain a constant production of the 31e. So the aspiration is to continuously produce two standard classes of ships for the Royal Navy”.

Mr Sweeney, however, remains concerned that what he described as Tory “cutthroat competition” for orders between yards would scupper a revival.

Paul Sweeney congratuled as he is elected in 2017

Britain currently has 19 major fighting ships. It needs 24 to meet its international and domestic commitments, according to current thinking.

BAE did not comment on whether it could renew its frigate factory plan. The company did, however, echo MOD messaging that Type 26 orders secured shipbuilding on the Clyde for 20 years.