Minister says no decision has been made on Harland & Wolff financial support

The owner of the Belfast shipyard has applied to a government scheme for support in building ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

Aerial view of the Harland & Wolff shipyard, including the famous yellow cranes. Inset image of group CEO John Wood.
Harland & Wolff group chief executive John Wood (inset) has insisted the company's application for a loan guarantee ‘has not been rejected’, and ‘continues to be a work in progress’.

The UK’s minister for defence procurement has insisted that no decision has been made around financial support for the owner of the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast.

Last week, a report in The Times newspaper suggested Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to block a key support package application by the firm, amid an “intense government row”.

Harland & Wolf Group Holdings’ chief executive John Wood then insisted their application “has not been rejected”, and “continues to be a work in progress”.

The firm received a major boon when the Team Resolute Consortium it belongs to won the bid to deliver three fleet solid support (FSS) ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

It has applied to the UK government’s Export Development Guarantee (EDG) scheme for support.

The scheme usually covers up to 80% of the risk to lenders on loans of up to £500 million. Harland & Wolff is in its application asking for a 100% guarantee.

The historic Belfast shipyard which built the Titanic has had a challenging recent past and faced down closure in 2019 when it was bought by InfraStrata.

Appearing at the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, the minister for defence procurement at the Ministry of Defence James Cartlidge was asked about the reports.

He told MPs there is a limit to what he can say, and could not comment on commercially sensitive matters adding: “No decision has been made on financial support for the company”.

Committee chair Sir Robert Buckland pressed Mr Cartlidge on a timescale for when issues may be resolved.

The minister responded: “I’m afraid I can’t say any more than no decision has been made yet.”

Pressed further he added: “FSS remains a top priority naval procurement for the Ministry of Defence, we are committed to delivering it and that will ensure continued investment in shipyards in the UK including in Belfast.”

The committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into defence spending in Northern Ireland.