Concern over Portsmouth shipyard as deal with new firms has yet to be finalised

HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, has the F and G ring sections joined together at BAE Systems' shipbuilding bay within Portsmouth Naval Base.
HMS Prince of Wales, the second of the Royal Navy's Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, has the F and G ring sections joined together at BAE Systems' shipbuilding bay within Portsmouth Naval Base.

WATCH: Royal Navy drone video of HMS Queen Elizabeth

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FEARS have been heightened over the future of the city’s shipyard after it emerged a deal to bring in more work has yet to be secured.

The government announced before the general election that BAE Systems and Magma Structures would be moving into the vacant shiphall.

Politicians should not announce things and say they will happen when no contract has been signed.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Portsmouth Lib Dems

But defence secretary Michael Fallon revealed on a recent trip to Portsmouth contracts have yet to be signed with the bidders – which are seeking to build composite structures and maintain minesweeper vessels.

Speaking to The News, Mr Fallon said: ‘We have had huge interest in using the shiphall.

‘Now we have two potential tenants and we are in the final stages of negotiating with them.’

‘We hope to sign contracts with them shortly.’

The News understands the deal being offered to Magma is a three-year lease – though it is hoped the company will stay on for much longer.

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘It doesn’t fill me with huge confidence that any of this will happen.

‘If we are trying to get long-term investment then we should have been looking for a longer lease. At the city council, we look for 25-year leases.

‘Politicians should not announce things and say they will happen when no contract has been signed.’

Labour councillor John Ferrett, also negotiations officer for the Prospect union, which represents dockyard workers, said: ‘My understanding, from talking to people in the base, is BAE has been put under pressure to start in September, but BAE is saying it doesn’t believe it can meet that timescale.’

He added: ‘This will not be creating new jobs or new work. The whole thing has been more about presentation, rather than substance.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth North Tory MP Penny Mordaunt remains confident.

‘What I am pushing for is a bit of extra money for Magma, because we are asking the company to invest very heavily in the yard over a fairly short-term lease,’ she said.

‘I want to make sure it has the best deal possible.

‘Magma will be coming in, it is prepared for that, and it will be absolutely fantastic.’

The Ministry of Defence insists everything is going to plan, but cannot say when contracts will be signed.

An MoD spokesperson said: ‘We are currently working with Magma Structures to explore all options in agreeing lease terms.

‘This is a complex process and takes time. We are unable to comment about the length of lease under discussion.’ BAE Systems told The News negotiations are ongoing. Magma Structures was unavailable for comment.