DEFENCE secretary Philip Hammond has revealed a £70m deal to safeguard 100 maritime jobs working on the navy’s newest destroyers.
In an exclusive interview with The News, Mr Hammond said the Ministry of Defence is about to sign a contract with BAE Systems lasting for two and a half years.
City leaders have hailed it as a tangible sign of help from the government as the city forges its future in the wake of the loss of shipbuilding.
The contract will sustain around 100 engineering jobs in Portsmouth Naval Base as part of BAE System’s Maritime Services arm.
Mr Hammond told The News: ‘We expect in the next few days to be signing a contract with BAE extending the Type 45 support contract for another two and a half years to end the of 2016.
‘That will secure more than 100 BAE jobs in the area sustaining our newest and most capable warship class.
‘It’s another piece of good news.
‘Although there was obvious disappointment about what happened over the shipbuilding decision, the future of the ship sustainment industry here is very strong and beyond that we’re working very closely with the council and other authorities around trying to use our surplus land as part of the city deal to generate other opportunities outside of the maritime industries as well as inside them here in Portsmouth.’
BAE Systems announced in November last year that it would be closing its shipbuilding division in Portsmouth.
BAE has two main arms to its operation in the city – shipbuilding and maritime services, which deals with things such as maintenance of the navy’s ships.
It is the shipbuilding arm which is to close, while the other remains.
But Mr Hammond said that with the increase in tonnage of warships due to arrive in Portsmouth by the end of the decade, more jobs will be generated, not fewer.
The senior Conservative MP added: ‘Obviously there was huge disappointment at the decision BAE made to close the shipbuilding facilities here but I think everybody involved in shipbuilding understood for a very long time that we were going to face this challenge.
‘The scale of the navy’s requirements in the future can only sustain one complex warship building yard and it had to be the company’s decision where that was best located and they have decided that should be the Clyde.
‘This decision reflects the end of a period of really extraordinary activity in shipbuilding as we’ve built the Type 45s and been building the carriers, now we will be returning to a more normal pattern of ship replacement and this will provide stability that will support the UK maritime industry for the long term future.
‘But of course for Portsmouth it is a loss of 900-odd jobs in shipbuilding but securing that future means securing the much larger number of jobs, the 13,000 in the dockyard and the 3,000 BAE jobs in the area.
‘There is a very secure future for those jobs and for the maritime presence in Portsmouth.
‘There’s going to be more tonnage of ships based here than there’s been for 50 years by the time the carriers are in service, generating more jobs, not fewer.’
The maintenance work will be carried out on the navy’s six Type 45 destroyers, all of which are based in Portsmouth.
Maintenance work is essential to ensuring the warships are ready to deploy around the world.
Richard Dingley, the fleet services director for BAE Systems, said: ‘We are proud to continue our support to the Royal Navy fleet here in Portsmouth.
‘Our objective as always is to ensure the ships are ready and available to be deployed and to continue that support while the ships are on operations around the world.
‘We welcome progress on the discussions to award BAE Systems a contract to manage and support and upkeep of the Type 45 destroyers.
‘This contract will sustain around 100 high value engineering roles at Portsmouth.’
Penny Mordaunt, the MP for Portsmouth North and Donna Jones, the leader of the Conservative group in Portsmouth both welcomed the news of the £70m jobs boost.
Ms Mordaunt said: ‘This news is fantastic and it’s great for the 100 individuals.
‘We are going to keep working on getting these bits of investment into Portsmouth and we will come out the other side of this stronger.
‘We have a lot of people looking out for Portsmouth because sustaining jobs here is so important to the capability of our nation.
‘This is one great announcement, and there will be more announcements.’
Cllr Jones added: ‘I’m absolutely delighted with the secretary of state’s announcement to support 100 jobs within Portsmouth dockyard.
‘This is welcome news particularly with the recent growth in jobs creation, apprenticeships, and reduction in unemployment in Portsmouth.’
Mr Hammond said the Ministry of Defence is continuing to work with Portsmouth City Council to work out the best use for surplus government-owned land in the area.
It forms part of the City Deal, agreed between Portsmouth and the government, which will unlock land for business development.
As reported in The News, minister for Portsmouth Michael Fallon also recently announced parts of the Portsmouth area have won Assisted Area Status – part of a European Union scheme which makes firms in the area eligible for tax breaks and extra funding.
And £100m is on its way to the dockyard to make all the necessary preparations for the new aircraft carriers.
Mr Hammond added: ‘The announcement of the new [BAE] contract and the physical materialisation of the £100m investment that’s going into the dockyard to prepare it to house these huge new carriers is a concrete embodiment of that commitment to the future here which I hope will make people feel significantly reassured.
‘At the same time, they’re going to start seeing the regeneration of these land areas in the city bringing new homes, new industry and new jobs to the area.’
The defence secretary was in the city yesterday to give a keynote speech at the Chief of European Naval Staff’s Conference.
He said: ‘After 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan there is a tendency for people to think about military power in terms of land power supported by air power, because we’ve been fighting in a landlocked country.
‘But as we return to contingency, the primary significance of maritime power will come back into its own again and we are reminded that we are a maritime nation and maritime power is crucially important to our security and to our prosperity.’
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