Ministers say BAE decision ‘not political’

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TWO government ministers yesterday denied the decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth was a political decision.

On a trip to the city, featured on page 23 of today’s paper, Conservative Party chairman and minister without portfolio, Grant Shapps MP, said: ‘Portsmouth has a bright future despite a disappointing day.’

Both he and Havant member of parliament David Willetts, who is minister for universities and science, said the decision is not linked to next year’s Scottish independence referendum.

Mr Shapps told The News: ‘That is nothing to do with this decision at all.

‘BAE Systems have made the decision on their own. They think it would work better in Scotland.

‘People recognise that when the carrier project was up, we were going to have a situation where we have to make choices for shipbuilding. There are some difficult decisions that have to be made.

‘What the government will do now is absolutely support the people of Portsmouth, particularly Portsmouth families and individuals who will lose their job in the second half of next year.’

Mr Willetts said the city is ‘a vibrant naval centre’ with lots of activity continuing.

‘We’ve known that BAE have had a problem about what would happen after the carriers,’ he said.

‘It’s obviously a blow that we’re losing the shipbuilding.

‘I know that the decisions have been based on what different parts of the country should specialise in.

‘You can’t maintain the number of yards we’ve got on the volume of activity we’ve got.

‘That’s the brutal challenge that any government would have faced and the previous government was aware of.

‘The argument is that shipbuilding, as a specialism, is what the Govan yard should specialise in.’

He added that Portsmouth has a role to play outside of shipbuilding.

‘The maintenance of the fleet and the headquarters and servicing of the fleet is what Portsmouth should specialise in,’ he said.