Privatisation talks for nuclear submarine base

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The Independent Online

The Government is discussing the maintenance of the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane, near Glasgow, with a private company, it has emerged.

The Government is discussing the maintenance of the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane, near Glasgow, with a private company, it has emerged.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is discussing the maintenance and repair of Britain's naval assets at the base with Babcock Rosyth Defence.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the talks were the result of "over capacity" in warship repair and maintenance across the Ministry's naval bases. They are also being carried out with Devonport Management in Plymouth and Fleet Support in Portsmouth.

He said there was not enough work to go around, with fewer ships requiring less maintenance. It was too early to say whether any jobs would be at risk, but it was "vital" the workforce was kept involved with developments.

Mr Hoon revealed on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that the Government could save up to £150 million as a result of the discussions.

"As far as the entire picture is concerned it was anticipated as long ago as 1997 that there might be £150 million of savings to be made, generally," he said.

"We already have high level security work conducted by private companies and we have the very highest security and safety standards.

"This is a very early stage in the process. These kinds of arrangements already exist in the shipyards and it is something we are looking to extend.

"There is significant over-capacity in warship repair and maintenance across the UK. We are not simply talking about Faslane now, we are also talking about Devonport, Rosyth and Portsmouth.

"These discussions are designed to address the question of over capacity right across the dockyards.

"It is necessary to address the general problem caused by much more efficient ways of working these days with fewer ships requiring to be repaired and re-fitted," he added.

Mr Hoon said he would "look at" the issue of privatisation and added that he had already had some "very useful" talks with trade unions.

Over capacity "needs addressing and is something the trade unions themselves have recognised", he added.

Jack Dromey, senior national official for the Transport and General Workers Union, confirmed there was a problem of over-capacity, and unions had held "very useful discussions".

But he appealed to defence chiefs to explore options falling short of privatisation.

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he was deeply concerned about the security implications of the possible privatisation of Trident base at Faslane.

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