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 contract
s 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.