British Prime Minister Tony Blair said
his government will take the needs of domestic shipbuilders into account when it awards a $475.1 million contract for naval ferries. "It is important we take this decision not just on best commercial grounds, but... the best grounds and interests of the shipbuilding industry in this country," he told parliament.
But Blair, facing pressure from shipbuilders and oil industry workers fighting to stop the contract going abroad, also said his government was bound by strict European Union rules
in awarding the contract. "We're bound in these procurement contracts, since they are not defense contracts as such, we are bound by these procurement contract rules of the European Union, the same way that every other country is," Blair said.
He denied reports that the contract had already been awarded, saying "no decision has been taken at all." His spokesman later said the decision would be made in late spring.