Royal Navy fleet being depleted by long procurement process

The Royal Navy fleet is being depleted by a "vicious cycle" where old ships are being kept beyond their sell-by date, an independent report has warned.

A review headed by Sir John Parker found that procurement of ships for the navy takes too long compared to other industries.

He concluded that fewer ships than planned are being ordered too late, adding: "Old ships are retained in service well beyond their sell-by date with all the attendant high costs of so doing.

"This vicious cycle is depleting the RN fleet and unnecessarily costing the taxpayer. It needs to be broken."

Sir John, the chair of mining giant Anglo American, said there is a "vibrant" UK supply chain sector which the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should take advantage of.

He called for a "sea change" from the government so that shipyards across the UK could win work and create jobs.

He said the government must drive cultural change in defence, injecting "genuine pace" into the procurement process

The MoD should lay out its plans for naval ships over the next three decades, the report recommended.

HMS Iron Duke Credit: PA

SNP defence spokesman Brendan O'Hara said the UK government must end "unnecessary and worrying delays" with regards to a national shipbuilding strategy.

"The MoD told us the strategy - vital to our shipbuilding industry - would be complete by the Autumn Statement last week at the latest.

"We are now told it will be spring next year before we can see any firm plans and that means more unnecessary and worrying delays for the workers, families and communities that depend on shipbuilding.

"These concerns about another Westminster muddle will only be heightened by some of the recommendations in this report, with clear implications for yards on the Clyde in particular."

The MoD said the report will inform the Government's shipbuilding strategy, which will be published in Spring next year.

A statement said: "Sir John recognises the skill and experience Scottish shipyards possess. He argues that Scotland's cutting-edge technology presents an opportunity to implement modular construction more widely, a process in which ship components are produced across the UK before being assembled at a central hub.

"The build of the Royal Navy's largest ever warships - the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers - has already demonstrated the success of such an approach, with multiple shipyards and hundreds of companies across the UK working together and benefiting from the aircraft carrier build and final assembly taking place at Rosyth."

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: "I would like to thank Sir John for providing an ambitious vision of naval shipbuilding in the UK based on a new era of co-operation as part of our modern industrial strategy.

"This report will inform our national shipbuilding strategy to match the needs of the Royal Navy with the ability to design and build efficiently, maintain skills, and maximise export opportunities.

"This will ensure a strong naval shipbuilding sector and help deliver an economy that works for everyone."