Legal team nails down dock privatisation deal

Norton Rose and its M5 Group partner Bond Pearce are celebrating the end of two-and-a-half year long negotiations for the £40.3m privatisation of Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, along with a controversial contract to build docks for Trident submarines.

The firms acted jointly for the consortium buying the dockyard from the Ministry of Defence. The privatisation was dogged by controversy since Babcock, the company buying the Navy dockyard at Rosyth, Scotland, was in a battle with Devonport to win the lucrative contract to provide docking facilities for Trident nuclear submarines.

The MoD was criticised last week by Babcock and the Labour party for not revealing the amount it is paying Norton Rose's client for the facilities.

The Devonport consortium initially bid £237m for the contract, but it is believed that, during the three years of negotiations, the consortium has pushed up the price of building the docks to well above £300m.

A lawyer at Hammond Suddards, which represented Babcock in the £27m privatisation of Rosyth, said: “A lot of public money was spent at Rosyth building quite complex facilities for Trident, but the Government changed its mind and gave the contract to Devonport. Now the issue is how much they are going to spend at Devonport.”

Norton Rose team lead partner Alan Crookes said he could not comment on that aspect of the deal. Both Norton Rose and Bond Pearce pitched jointly to represent the consortium, since Bond Pearce was based in Plymouth. “It is obviously an advantage to have people right there on the spot,” said Crookes.

The Norton Rose team also worked closely with in-house lawyers from all three members of the consortium – Brown & Root, BICC and The Weir Group. Chris Hill of Norton Rose advised on the controversial nuclear facilities contract working with Terry Field on Brown & Root's in-house legal team.