Ben Glaze writes:
New Army fighting vehicles will be built abroad – despite hailing the £3.5billion deal as a boost for British manufacturing.
A hundred of the military’s Ajax fighting vehicles will be “fully manufactured and assembled” in Spain, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
The hulls for another 489 will be built in Spain before the vehicles are shipped to the UK to be completed.
The Mirror has previously revealed how 40% of the work for the Ajax vehicles is being carried out by overseas firms, with the “majority” of the steel for the project coming from Sweden.
Revelations that a sixth of the 589-strong fleet will be 100% Spanish triggered anger at Westminster. Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “Cameron has tried to claim this deal is good for British industry.
“But first we find out they’re using Swedish steel then we learn 100 of them are being completely built in Spain, while the rest will have their hulls built in Spain.
“This is another kick in the teeth for our manufacturing industry from the Tories.
“We need a proper industrial strategy, led by the Government committed to growing our manufacturing base.
“The Tories don’t care about these types of jobs. Many Tory MPs have never done a decent day’s hard graft in their life and you can see that in decisions like this.”
Defence Minister Earl Howe quietly made the latest admission in a written Parliamentary answer. He said: “The British Army will receive 589 Ajax vehicles which will come in six variants.
“A total of 100 vehicles will be fully manufactured and assembled in Spain.
“The hulls for the remaining 489 will be transported to the Merthyr Tydfil facility where they will be combined with constituent parts to make complete vehicles.”
A separate answer told how it would be nine years before all the vehicles were delivered to the Army.
The “first vehicles will be delivered to training schools in 2017, with an initial operating capability scheduled for 2020 and full operating capability forecast for 2025”, said Earl Howe.
The Government has previously highlighted the Ajax deal as proof it backs British industry. Unveiling the order as the 2014 Nato summit got underway in South Wales, Mr Cameron said:
“I’m delighted that on the eve of the Nato summit, we can announce the biggest single contract for AFVs (armoured fighting vehicles) for the British Army since the 1980s.
“Not only will they be crucial in helping to keep Britain safe, they will also underpin nearly 1,300 jobs across the UK and showcase the strength of the UK’s highly skilled defence sector.”
The Ministry of Defence added later:
“We are assembling these vehicles in South Wales, supporting thousands of UK jobs and ensuring our servicemen and women have the very best equipment.”