PORTSMOUTH would remain the home of the Royal Navy even if BAE Systems stopped building warships in the city, the Ministry of Defence has announced.
As rumours spread about the defence giant pulling out of Portsmouth Naval Base, the navy said any decisions made by BAE will not impact on where it chooses to base the majority of its warships.
BAE Systems, which employs 3,000 workers in the city, has confirmed it is conducting a review of its business in line with a slowdown of MoD shipbuilding contracts later this decade.
The global firm has refused to rule out leaked reports that this could spell the end of its shipbuilding operation in Portsmouth.
This led to fears that the city could lose its flotilla of warships.
But the MoD moved to crush this speculation yesterday.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Naval Base said: ‘There are no plans to shut Her Majesty’s Naval Base.
‘As part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we committed to retaining all three naval bases, including Portsmouth, and they will continue to play an important role in support of the Royal Navy. The decision to retain all three naval bases rested on a broad range of factors, which stand regardless of any potential decision by BAE Systems Maritime.
‘If the company decided to reduce or stop its shipbuilding activities in Portsmouth, this would not result in the shutting of the base or the reopening of a review of the naval bases.’
Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage, who met defence minister Peter Luff on the issue on Wednesday, has been assured any BAE cuts will not impact on the number of Portsmouth-based ships.
She said: ‘People were worried about the possibility of a knock-on effect on the naval base if BAE Systems stopped building ships in Portsmouth, but the minister made it clear the government is 100 per cent committed to having three naval bases in the UK.’
Economic research has found the dockyard and related industries accounts for 34,000 jobs in Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire. Sixty per cent of the navy’s surface fleet is Portsmouth-based. This includes the carrier HMS Illustrious, four Type 45 destroyers, four Type 42 destroyers, six Type 23 frigates, eight minesweepers, three fishery patrol vessels and the ice-breaker HMS Protector.
Two new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers being part-built by BAE in Portsmouth will be based in the city from 2016 onwards. It is expected most of the new Type 26 frigates will also be based in the city once they are built.
The navy has three amphibious ships, seven Type 23 frigates, six Trafalgar class submarines and four survey ships at Devonport in Plymouth. Four Trident submarines, the new Astute class boats and seven minesweepers are based at Clyde Naval Base in Scotland.