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Shipbuilding: Portsmouth MP asks for government help

The first section of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier rolls slowly out of the BAE Systems shipbuilding hall in Portsmouth Naval Base onto a barge
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Picture: Steve Reid 121432-284)

The first section of the Royal Navy's new aircraft carrier rolls slowly out of the BAE Systems shipbuilding hall in Portsmouth Naval Base onto a barge . Picture: Steve Reid 121432-284)

PORTSMOUTH South MP Mike Hancock has asked the government to assemble a crisis team in case the city’s shipyard closes.

It comes after reports a decision will be made by Christmas about whether BAE Systems’ Portsmouth shipyard will close.

As reported in The News, Nigel Whitehead, the chief executive of the defence giant, told a Sunday newspaper part of its review of operations could see one manufacturing site close down.

Now Mr Hancock says he has asked the business secretary Vince Cable to look again at the future of the city’s shipyard and to be prepared to help anyone who is left jobless if a decision is made to close it.

He said: ‘I want the business secretary to implement the crisis team to try 
and secure employment for the workers.

‘We have got 500 jobs going at the Southampton Ford plant and if we lose the same in Portsmouth that’s a lot of engineering jobs.

‘We have got to get ideas on how we can support a large number of highly-skilled workers.’

Mr Cable has already cast doubts on the viability of one plan to secure the shipyard’s future.

City leaders floated an idea for BAE to build an offshore patrol vessel to help with an upcoming gap in work and secure the city’s shipbuilding.

The business secretary said he didn’t think the project was ‘a runner’.

But Mr Hancock believes there is merit in the idea.

He added: ‘The agreement between the Ministry of Defence and BAE means if they’re not building anything BAE still get paid.

‘So isn’t it better to get them to build something rather than doing nothing?’

BAE Systems says it is exploring all options and is working with its employees and trade unions.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘For the long term of the city the most important bits are keeping the navy here and keeping ships based here for the long-term service contracts.

‘I will fight hard to keep naval ship building here but even harder to keep the navy and their ships here.

‘When I talk to unions the bit that they are very keen to keep is the servicing of the ships because that’s a long-term job for the next 25 to 30 years.’

 

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