Rifkind to investigate refit 'leak'

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MALCOLM RIFKIND, the Secretary of State for Defence, last night agreed to investigate a claim that MoD officials had passed details of Devonport dockyard's bid to refit Trident nuclear submarines to its rival yard Rosyth, writes Patricia Wynn Davies.

The inquiry follows what Gary Streeter, the Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton, called a 'strong letter expressing grave concern over what appears to be a serious leak' to Mr Rifkind yesterday.

The privately-run Devonport Management Ltd had been confident until last week of winning the Trident bid because its proposals for the safe refitting of the submarines were some pounds 100m cheaper than those of Babcock Thorn, the consortium running Rosyth, which were based around a new dockyard.

The award of the contract is crucial because one or other yard will almost inevitably close without the Trident work. About 5,500 jobs are at risk at Devonport and 4,100 at the Scottish yard.

The MoD's Navy Board and the Treasury are understood to have backed the Devonport bid. But Mr Streeter said last night that a new bid by Rosyth, which followed a request from the MoD for it to submit an offer based on refurbishment of the existing yard, appeared to be partly based on material in the Devonport bid.

Last night Mr Streeter tabled a series of parliamentary questions demanding explanations from Mr Rifkind.