Blow to Portsmouth’s shipyard hopes as minister rules out ship plan

SETBACK BAE Systems in Portsmouth shipyard
SETBACK BAE Systems in Portsmouth shipyard
Picture: SWNS

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DEFENCE minister Philip Dunne has ruled out the option of building a new navy warship in Portsmouth.

Calls have been made for at least one of the Royal Navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) to be built in the city to help safeguard dockyard jobs.

But in a fresh blow to the city, the senior MP has said the plan is ‘not possible’.

It comes after the recent announcement by BAE Systems that it will end shipbuilding operations in the city next year, with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs.

In a letter to Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, Mr Dunne said: ‘I am afraid it will not be possible for an OPV to be built in Portsmouth.

‘While initial consideration was given to the feasibility of building these ships in Portsmouth, as discussions with BAE progressed, it became evident there would be clear business benefits in the company’s decision to consolidate its shipbuilding capabilities on the Clyde.

‘The key issue became how to maintain shipbuilding skills there, between the programmes to build the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and the Type 26 Global Combat ships.

‘The build of three OPVs was determined to be the optimum method to maintain these skills, while delivering useful capability for the navy.’

City leaders have vowed to continue lobbying for Portsmouth to get help in mitigating the effect of job losses.

They wanted an OPV to be built in the city because they said it would help safeguard jobs and buy the city some time to set up an alternative maritime industry.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I was gobsmacked when I received the letter because there was nothing helpful in it.

‘It proves how hopeless the situation is with ministers. There is not anything positive coming out of their comments at all and it just adds to the disappointment that we all feel here in

Portsmouth.

‘I think they are just hoping it will all go away.

‘That really closes the door to it but I just wanted to get a straight answer from them on the matter.

‘At this moment anything is worth asking for and we will see what we can do next.’

Portsmouth City Council’s task force, which is looking at how to counteract the effects of the BAE job losses, met again yesterday.

‘DAVID CAMERON SHOULD GIVE US ANSWERS’

PORTSMOUTH is looking to the Prime Minister for answers, Mike Hancock has said as three weeks have passed since an open letter backed by The News was sent to Downing Street.

The Portsmouth South MP has now written to David Cameron urging him to respond to the points made by a group of city leaders including MPs and councillors from all parties, union leaders, and the editor of The News.

Mr Hancock said in a letter to Number 10: ‘Portsmouth is looking to you for support and a remedy to the problems we face, created due to no fault of the city or individuals and families affected. I find it very discourteous to the people of Portsmouth that you have not seen fit to reply as a matter of urgency to this matter, and I would urge you to respond as soon as possible.’

Last week Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said Mr Cameron was ‘pursuing’ the points raised by the letter.