The order to build three new supply ships for the Royal Navy will grow at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, the defense secretary said.

Ben Wallace has sought to defend the decision to award the £1.6bn contract for three Fleet Solid Support (FSS) vessels to a Spanish-led consortium.

He also accused an MP of “slamming” Harland & Wolff, where the ships were assembled.

The three ships will be built in blocks at shipyards in the UK – including Appledore in Devon and Methil in Fife – and in Spain.

The FSS contract went to Team Resolute, operated by Spanish state-owned Navantia, ahead of a competing bid from companies called Team UK.

Mr Wallace appeared at Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee on Tuesday as part of its inquiry into defense in Scotland.

The SNP’s Deidre Brock suggested that Team UK’s offer would have led to higher spending in the UK.

Mr Wallace said: “You will see a fully assembled ship in Belfast – a warship for the first time in 15, 16 years.

“It will create jobs at Harland and Wolff, a historic (sic) shipyard.”

He added: “I think this is good news for British shipbuilding.”

Mr Wallace said the exact details of the spending were still being worked out, but £72m would be invested in the UK.

Many defense projects, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon jets, contain internationally manufactured components, he said.

Former Labor Defense Secretary, Kevan Jones, told Mr. Wallace expressed his concerns about Team Resolute’s corporate structures, saying the UK branch of Navantia was an “empty company”.

He asked, “Where is the risk of who signs this contract?”

Vice-Admiral Paul Marshall, who appeared with the defense minister, said: “We are certainly looking for the prime contractor to take the risk.”

Mr Jones said the situation was similar to the army’s difficult program to acquire Ajax vehicles.

He said Harland & Wolff had relatively small sales and that more of the work could go to Spain if something went wrong in the UK.

Mr Wallace countered the Labor MP’s questions, saying: “I think you’re butchering Harland & Wolff, Kevan, almost.”

Mr Jones said he had been told the first ship would be built in Spain.

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