GIVE US answers to finally shed some light over the future of Portsmouth shipyard.
That’s the challenge being issued today to David Cameron after he avoided fresh questions over the companies supposedly moving to the vacant facility.
Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond called on the prime minister in parliament yesterday to reveal when the deal to bring in composite structure firm Magma Structures would be complete.
But the Tory leader failed to answer the question properly and instead declared his party was ‘absolutely committed’ to ensuring the shiphall was used ‘in the most effective way’.
Now civic leaders say enough is enough and the prime minister – who made repeated promises to The News before the general election that he would save the shiphall – needs to reveal what is really going on.
Mrs Drummond, meanwhile, said she will continue to ask the ‘difficult questions’ that need answers and will keep pushing for a commitment over Magma’s role.
The prime minister needs to come clean about what is happening. He needs to finally give us the answers, and he has not done that for months and months and months.Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader
Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Portsmouth Lib Dem group leader, who campaigned against the end of shipbuilding in the city, said: ‘The prime minister needs to come clean about what is happening.
‘He needs to finally give us the answers, and he has not done that for months and months and months.
‘It doesn’t look like there are any new jobs being created.
‘It looks like jobs are just being moved out of Trafalgar Wharf (where Magma is based) and being transferred to the dockyard.’
The government revealed in April Magma and BAE Systems had been chosen to move into the shiphall and focus on building composite structures and the repair of minesweeper vessels as a response to the blow of BAE moving its shipbuilding operation to Scotland in 2013.
There appears to have been no progress since – with defence secretary Michael Fallon recently admitting contracts had yet to be signed off with the companies.
Labour group leader and Prospect union negotiations officer, John Ferrett, said: ‘It’s a concern we have no confirmation over Magma and we have had no confirmation as to when BAE is moving into the shiphall.
‘Once again, this looks like promises that were made just as we had promises by the prime minister shipbuilding would be coming back, and that promise was not honoured.’
He added: ‘If a commitment has been given to bring businesses into that area, then that should be honoured.’
Cllr Donna Jones, Tory council leader, said there is a hold-up while the Defence Infrastructure Organisation– which operates MoD assets – is going through the cost of business rates and rent with Magma.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I am not concerned about the deal with Magma not going ahead. I am confident it will.
‘I have spoken with Clive Johnson of Magma Structures and spoken at length with Flick over this issue. The issue is about pricing and costing of the space that Magma will occupy in the shiphall.
‘Everyone has a shared passion in Portsmouth to get the shiphall operational as soon as possible.’
Mrs Drummond said: ‘I’m pleased I was able to ask the prime minister about the lease, and I hope it’s also now clear that I will asking the difficult questions and I will fight hard for Portsmouth’s interests. The PM and his ministers are now aware of the issue. I will continue to press behind the scenes for the lease to be granted as soon as possible.’
Q&A in full
Portsmouth South MP
Q: A push for greater diversity and employment is part of my key plan for Portsmouth.
Can the prime minister assure my constituents that the leasing part of the dockyard to Magma Structures can be confirmed in due course, because we look forward to welcoming yet another hi-tech company to the city?
Prime minister David Cameron
A: First of all, can I congratulate my honourable friend on her election success and for standing up already for Portsmouth and all the work she did as a candidate and all the things I know she will do as a member of parliament.
We are absolutely committed to ensuring the Portsmouth shiphall is used in the most effective way to deliver capability, to create jobs and to boost growth in the region.
And I have to say, the developments in Portsmouth at the moment are exciting – whether it’s ship servicing, whether it’s welcoming the carriers when they come to Portsmouth, or whether it’s the Ben Ainslie centre being constructed with government support.
Also, can I just say how good it is that Portsmouth will be represented in this place by strong Conservative women.