Portsmouth councillors pledge solidarity in fight to save shipbuilding

BUILDING BAE staff working on the first of the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in Portsmouth
BUILDING BAE staff working on the first of the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers in Portsmouth

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CITY councillors have defiantly pledged they will work together to ensure shipbuilding stays in Portsmouth.

Councillors unanimously agreed to unite and oppose any moves by BAE Systems to close its yard at Portsmouth Naval Base and yesterday’s full council meeting.

Portsmouth Labour party’s Cllr Aiden Gray put forward a motion calling on the council to write to the Defence Secretary stating why the closure would have a devastating impact on workers and their families, and be detrimental to the strategic defence capability of the UK.

It called on councillors to write to local MPs to support shipbuilding in Portsmouth, and to convene a cross-party group to work with trade unions to campaign for the workforce’s future.

A total of 36 councillors agreed to an amended version of the motion by the Portsmouth Conservative group. The additions included aims for the council to make Portsmouth the official home of the surface fleet and for councillors to urge to BAE Systems and Government ministers to work with the council to protect shipbuilding in the city.

Cllr Gray told the meeting: ‘It is crucial the stakeholders, BAE Systems, central government, local government and trade unions work together to deliver a sustainable future for the business and its employees.

‘From the city council’s perspective, we need to foster closure relationships with BAE Systems and trade unions. Therefore any group that is convened longing for a sustainable future must be cross party involving representatives from the three groups on the council and the local MPs.

‘It’s imperative we work collectively on this in the same way other communities will be lobbying for a particular interest.’

Deputy leader of the council Cllr Hugh Mason said: ‘This motion is important.

‘This is important to the future of our city.

‘The whole of this motion is in fact a criticism of governments past and present. We are saying the last Labour government did not do right by this city, and what is happening at the moment, unless we take action, the current government will not do right by this city.

‘We have to defend our city and defend our jobs to the utmost degree.’

Cllr Matthew Winnington, ward councillor for Eastney and Craneswater, said: ‘We should say to the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems that we don’t want you to build the Death Star but do a bit of work to keep money coming in.

‘We should work together as a council to make this happen.’

Cllr Steve Wemyss, ward representative for Drayton and Farlington, said: ‘Last time there was a threat to the naval base, across the chamber we fought on the same side irrespective of our feelings.’