‘Government cuts are why Portsmouth is fighting for its future’

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PORTSMOUTH City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson has joined the fight for the future of shipbuilding in the city.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson vowed to continue to lobby the government over the threat of job cuts at BAE Systems amid fears the Portsmouth base could be closed as part of a review by LEK Consulting.

BAE – which has two yards on the Clyde and one at Portsmouth – would not confirm or deny whether one of its three bases will be axed.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said that any job cuts at the firm would have a big impact on the city.

‘It’s exactly the same as when the last government questioned whether the Royal Navy should be here or not,’ he said.

‘When they proposed shutting down the naval base, we campaigned very hard and very effectively to keep the base here in Portsmouth.

‘And the outcome of that was more naval jobs in the city because we could demonstrate that Portsmouth was the most effective, the cheapest and the best place for the navy to be based.’

It comes after fears the Portsmouth base of BAE Systems could be closed as part of a review being carried out by the defence giant.

The company would not confirm or deny whether one of its three bases will be axed.

But job losses have not been ruled out.

Ian Waddell, national officer of Unite, said: ‘This news will be deeply unsettling for the people of Portsmouth.

‘It is not just the jobs of 3,000 at stake here, but also those of thousands more locally who depend on the shipyard.

‘BAE Systems must meet with the unions as a matter of urgency to discuss all solutions for saving the workforce.

‘Equally the government has a role to play.

‘Its cuts are ultimately the reason Portsmouth’s docks are now having to fight for a future.’

As reported in The News, BAE brought in LEK Consulting to carry out an ‘analytical study’ of the future of the business and to look at how it can be more efficient.

BAE has yards on the Clyde, at Scotstoun and Govan, and at Portsmouth.

Reports suggest that Portsmouth was the likely base to be axed as part of the review.

But both union leaders and the city’s MPs believe Portsmouth has a strong case to keep its base, particularly as there’s said to be years of work left building the new fleet of Type 26 frigates.

Regional organiser Gary Cook of the GMB union said: ‘BAE is looking for naval work from other nations. There are opportunities and the UK is very well placed because we have a reputation that is second to none, with a highly-skilled and motivated workforce.

‘This must be made to count for something.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt added: ‘I don’t think Portsmouth is top of the list for the chop.

‘The case for the city is strong – work can be pretty much all year round as the weather is calmer.

‘It is the heart of the city and is also building the Type 26 frigates.’

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said he has demanded a meeting with BAE bosses. In the meantime he’s called on them to end the speculation.

A BAE spokeswoman said: ‘As part of our business planning activity, we are reviewing how best to retain the capability to deliver and support complex warships in the UK in the future.’

This would be in line with its commitments, she said, adding: ‘This work is ongoing and we will keep our employees and trade union representatives fully informed, as it progresses.’