Base new frigates in Portsmouth to mitigate shipyard job losses

WORK MUST STAY A section of the Queen Elizabth aircraft carrier at the dockyard
WORK MUST STAY A section of the Queen Elizabth aircraft carrier at the dockyard

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BASING all of the Royal Navy’s new frigates in Portsmouth could help mitigate any reduction in shipbuilding, an MP has said.

The government is expected to place an order at the end of next year for a new class of frigates.

No decision has yet been made about where the ships will call home.

But Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt says Portsmouth should become the centre of excellence for the navy’s surface fleet, securing maintenance work.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘Portsmouth is clearly the home of the surface fleet so I think everyone will be arguing very strongly for that.

‘It is clear to me that we are seeing centres of excellence being set up in the various bases.

‘Faslane is the centre of excellence for submarines, Plymouth is the centre of excellence for amphibious vessels and survey ships, and Portsmouth is the centre of excellent for the surface fleet.

‘It’s clear we want both shipbuilding and maintenance to be buoyant in the city.

‘In my meetings with the unions we have looked at what pots of work there are available in both those areas.

‘In the short term it is about finding packages of work but in the long term it is about finding something sustainable.

‘Everyone is getting on with it and making sure we are doing everything we can.’

It comes after last week’s announcement from BAE Systems that shipbuilding operations will stop in the city next year.

The firm held talks this week with union leaders over its proposals.

The company said it was the start of an extensive consultation process aimed at mitigating the impact of the cuts, which will hit yards in Portsmouth and at Govan and Scotstoun on the River Clyde.

It was confirmed during the meetings that the job cuts will be phased in by 2016.

Around 940 jobs are being cut in Portsmouth, where shipbuilding will end next year, and 835 will go at the Scottish yards as well as Rosyth in Fife and at the firm’s Filton office, near Bristol.

A BAE Systems spokesman said: ‘We have held two days of constructive discussions with our trade unions.

‘This is the start of an extensive consultation process and we are committed to working tirelessly together to explore all potential options to mitigate the impact of our proposals on our employees.

‘It is inappropriate to comment further at this stage.’

SHOW SUPPORT BY SIGNING GOVERNMENT PETITION ONLINE

PEOPLE are being urged to show their support for the shipyard workers by signing an online petition.

Portsmouth City Council has backed an online petition set up in the fight to keep shipbuilding in the city. The council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, has also set up a task force to tackle the consequences of the shipbuilding decision.

People are being invited to show their support by signing the e-petition on the government’s website. When a petition there reaches 100,000 signatures, the issue is debated in Parliament.

To sign the petition, visit tinyurl.com/saveshipbuilding.