WORKERS have been told to remain calm as rumours circulate about BAE Systems closing down its shipbuilding operations in Portsmouth.
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage held talks with BAE’s parliamentary representatives in Whitehall yesterday and said there is no need to panic yet about the firm pulling out of Portsmouth.
But the Tory MP, who also met defence minister Peter Luff last night, warned BAE is looking to ‘downsize’ after it finishes building two aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy later this decade – which could lead to job losses.
BAE has confirmed it is conducting a review of its business model and has refused to deny leaked reports that it is looking to stop building ships in Portsmouth.
The rumours come as BAE negotiates with the MoD over a deal to build a new fleet of navy frigates called the Type 26 global combat ship.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘Clearly, with the end of the aircraft carrier project, they (BAE) are going to have to do a re-evaluation of their resources. But they say absolutely nothing has been decided.
‘They are early on in their review and everything is on the table. The finger is not being pointed at Portsmouth in particular at all. But they said they will have to downsize from dealing with the carrier project to dealing with the global combat ships.’
University of Portsmouth research suggests 34,000 local jobs are sustained by the dockyard and its supply chain.
BAE employs 1,500 shipbuilders in Portsmouth, with a further 1,500 people working on the maintenance and repair work BAE does for the navy’s surface fleet.
Ms Dinenage said: ‘My message to workers is don’t panic. There have been some worrying headlines but when you go behind the headlines there is nothing to worry about at the moment.
‘They can rest assured their local representatives in parliament are doing everything they can. I’m sure BAE would not want to be known as the company that ended 500 years of shipbuilding in Portsmouth.’
Economist Dr Mike Asteris, who conducted the study on the dockyard for Portsmouth University, said: ‘The loss of 1,500 highly-skilled manufacturing jobs would be a great blow to Portsmouth. In terms of direct employment, the naval base employs 10 per cent of Portsmouth, 15 per cent of Gosport and about eight per cent of Fareham.’