The new Minister for Portsmouth has said he will ‘champion’ the interests of Portsmouth to ensure the city pulls through after the loss of shipbuilding.
Speaking exclusively to The News, senior Conservative MP Michael Fallon has today said he will do everything he can to support new jobs in the city.
It comes after the highly unusual creation of a new ministerial post – the Minister for Portsmouth – by Prime Minister David Cameron in response to the city’s loss of shipbuilding jobs.
It is believed to be the first time a minister has been given responsibility for a particular provincial city since Michael Heseltine was made minister for Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots of 1981.
Mr Fallon said: ‘This role is to champion the interests of Portsmouth at Whitehall to ensure Portsmouth comes through this challenge of losing shipbuilding.
‘We must do everything we can across government to support the creation of new jobs in the maritime sector.
‘It means there will be a single focal point for all developments and when any government policies are likely to affect Portsmouth I can put Portsmouth’s interests forward.
‘This post has been created because of the challenge that the city faces.’
Mr Cameron’s official spokesman told a Westminster media briefing today: ‘Michael Fallon already has BIS (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) responsibilities.
‘His role will be to support jobs and growth in the Portsmouth area, working with local businesses, local representatives and working across Government.’
Asked why Portsmouth had been chosen for particular attention, rather than other cities and regions which have suffered economically in the wake of the financial crisis, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘This takes into account that there are particular circumstances here with regard to recent announcements in terms of shipbuilding and the continued transition towards Portsmouth as the centre for Royal Navy maintenance and refurbishment.
‘There are very particular circumstances here with regard to Portsmouth and the fact that there have been changes to Royal Navy shipbuilding, an industry that is very closely and directly linked to the government.’
The spokesman was asked whether Mr Cameron would consider reviving Labour’s practice of appointing ministers with responsibility for regions of England, which was dropped in 2010.
He replied: ‘I think there are particular circumstances in the Portsmouth area.’
· A full interview with the new Minister for Portsmouth, Michael Fallon, will be published in The News tomorrow.