DEFENCE chiefs have been accused of jeopardising Ferguson's and other shiyards by delaying a Royal Navy frigate contract.

Inverclyde's MP Ronnie Cowan has branded the Ministry of Defence's decision to restart the procurement process for five new Type 31e vessels - worth up to £250m each - as a 'complete and utter shambles'.

The competition for the work will go back to square one after MOD bosses said there was an insufficient number of 'compliant bids'.

It is understood two consortiums lodged bids for the work, one of which included Ferguson Marine.

The MOD says the project is still in the very early stages and insists it is still on track.

But Inverclyde's MP has criticised the handling of the procurement process and the impact it will have.

He now plans to hold urgent talks withe management at the yard.

Mr Cowan said: "The announcement by the Ministry of Defence of delays to building the Type 31e frigates is a complete and utter shambles.

"To sneak this announcement out on the last day of parliament before the summer recess highlights how this government is failing in its responsibilities and shying away from proper scrutiny.

"This has deeply serious consequences for our naval defence capabilities and the future of the shipbuilding across the UK, including here in Inverclyde.

"I will be meeting with representatives of Ferguson Marine to discuss the UK Government announcement and what this means for shipbuilding on the Lower Clyde."

The MOD has vowed to learn from the failed first attempt at appointing a contractor but Inverclyde Council SNP group leader, Chris McEleny, has accused officials of making the same mistakes from decades ago.

Councillor McEleny said: "This is just the latest betrayal of the UK Government to Clyde shipyard workers.

"Many former shipyard workers previously told me that the set price strategy failed during the 1980s and this same race to the bottom was being tried again by the UK government.

"Just like the 1980s, the UK Government is again failing Clyde shipyards.

"Yet again we are seeing jobs on the Clyde jeopardised by a chronic lack of support by the UK Government and more false hope followed by broken promises."

Defence chiefs say the project is still on track and that they expect the first new ship to be delivered by 2023.

An MOD spokesperson said: "There have been no changes in our plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates to grow our Royal Navy.

"We still want the first ship delivered by 2023 and are confident that industry will meet the challenge of providing them for the price tag we've set.

"This is an early contract in a wider procurement process, and we will incorporate the lessons learned and begin again as soon as possible so the programme can continue at pace."