David Cameron in Portsmouth to confirm city shipbuilding and Gosport helicopter servicing deals

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NEW life will be breathed into the empty shiphall in Portsmouth as two companies moving into the dockyard have been named, The News can reveal.

Magma Structures and BAE Systems will set up shop in Portsmouth Naval Base, Downing Street confirmed in a statement that coincided with a visit to the city today by David Cameron.

David Cameron

David Cameron

It was also confirmed that around 450 jobs in Gosport will be safeguarded by a new helicopter servicing deal.

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt welcomed the shipbuilding announcement and said Magma and BAE’s work would lead to stability for the dockyard workforce in the city.

Magma specialises in building complex composite structures while BAE is dedicated to working on counter-mine warfare at the site.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘The workforce will never again have to be reliant on Royal Navy contracts.

‘It’s not just “hurrah we’ve saved a shiphall” but what we can do in the future and where this will take us.

‘This is more jobs that were there for the previous work in the shiphall.

‘This is a complete shift from the past – this is about creating sustainable jobs for the workforce.

‘It is something we’ve never had before.’

Ms Mordaunt hopes BAE’s maintenance work will quickly move to shipbuilding.

The announcement is one of three prime minister David Cameron is due to make as he visits Hampshire today to tell how millions of pounds of defence investment will be sunk into the area.

Mr Cameron’s three announcements are:

- That Magma Structures and BAE have been chosen to occupy the vacant shiphall in Portsmouth’s Naval Base;

- Businesses have been picked to carry out work to prepare the naval base for the imminent arrival of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers;

- A £420m contract has been signed with Boeing to service the Royal Air Force’s fleet of Chinook helicopters at the Vector Aerospace Fleetlands site in Gosport, sustaining around 450 jobs.

Mr Cameron also praised coverage and campaigning by The News after BAE axed its shipbuilding operation in Portsmouth in November 2013.

He said: ‘There was huge disappointment when shipbuilding left its historic home last year.

‘But today we see Portsmouth firmly looking to the future.

‘This is a symbolic moment for Portsmouth – it’s what people in the city have long been waiting for.

‘After a time of uncertainty, the iconic hall will once again become a hive of activity and opportunity – and a crucial part of the city’s marine industry.

‘All this is thanks to the support of local businesses and residents, the teamwork across government and the council, and, of course, The News’ coverage and campaigning.’

The Vector deal will see the firm service the RAF’s Chinook helicopters for the next five years.

Chinook is the UK’s only military heavy-lift 
helicopter, able to transport 54 troops or 10 tonnes of supplies.

The contract will support the RAF’s fleet, which will be 60-strong by early 2017 and includes the new Mark 6 helicopters.

The announcements come after the Ministry of Defence announced last month the names of three firms in the running to take over the shipyard.

Magma Structures, which builds free-standing rigs for large yachts, and 
Burgess Marine, which specialises in ship repair and construction joined BAE Systems, which wants to transform the site into a centre of excellence for ‘mine warfare’ and repair of minesweeper vessels.

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‘Today we see Portsmouth firmly looking to the future’: David Cameron writes for The News

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MORE work is coming to the city as cutting edge technology will ramp up the size of the shiphall’s order book, politicians have said as they welcome the return of shipbuilding to the city.

Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, has praised the work of Magma Structures and BAE

Ms Mordaunt added: ‘Magma really is an amazing company they are building the most incredible structures that are pushing the boundaries in science and technology.

‘There’s a huge synergy with them and the future of the fleet, particularly on mine counter-warfare, which is what BAE is looking to expand.

‘There’s already discussion about Type 26s potentially not having steel hulls.’

Ms Mordaunt added there was an opportunity to base the navy’s Hunt and Sandown class minehunters based in Portsmouth. ‘That would create more work,’ she added.

And Ms Mordaunt said Portsdown Technology Park has a potential order book of £300bn.

Councillor Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council leader, last night said she welcomes the prime minister’s announcement

She said: ‘I’ve been working on the BAE shipyard new contract for 14 months now. I welcome the prime minister’s announcement today with open arms.’

It comes after David Cameron wrote to The News last January outlining the government’s commitment following the demise of shipbuilding. BAE Systems announced in November 2013 that it intended to stop shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

Of the almost 1,000 workers who were employed in the shipyard, around 175 have since been re-employed in other parts of the company.

The majority of those jobs were found in the firm’s Maritime Services division, which deals with warship maintenance.

A further 585 workers left to take employment elsewhere and there were 160 compulsory redundancies. The final naval ship block built in the city was for the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales. It left on a barge bound for Scotland in August.

Additional reporting

by Ben Fishwick