It’s time for Cameron to honour ship hall promise

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By any stretch of the imagination, the enormous grey shed dominating the skyline in Portsmouth’s city centre is not pretty.

But it does serve a purpose – as a monolithic memorial to a once-proud Portsmouth industry, namely warship-building.

For that is what the former BAE ship hall in the naval base has become – an unproductive shell.

Until 18 months ago this landmark had been a beacon in the resurgence of the city’s manufacturing status.

After decades of not building ships for the Royal Navy, the skills returned, the pride came back and Made In Portsmouth was once again stamped on the Royal Navy’s finest.

Then came the Scottish independence referendum and, as a bid to woo a No vote and jobs north of the border, prime minister David Cameron allowed warship-building to go from Portsmouth to Scotland.

That decision poleaxed Portsmouth shortly before Christmas 2013.

Little more than a year later and in response to an open letter from this newspaper backed by the area’s MPs, Mr Cameron pledged to do everything in his power to keep shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

That was in January 2014. Here we are now in June 2015 with a general election behind us and Mr Cameron safely installed back in Number 10.

Yet still the prime minister fails to tell the people of this city what will happen to that memorial-to-warship-building sitting empty in the naval base.

Flick Drummond, the new Tory MP for Portsmouth South, gave the prime minister every opportunity at question time yesterday to reveal what will happen to the building, who will go into it and what will come out of it.

He blatantly avoided the issue, instead choosing to go down the tired route of ‘welcoming’ what we have got: ship servicing, the potential arrival of two new carriers and Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup HQ.

We have waited far too long for a resolution to this issue. It’s time for the government and Mr Cameron to pull out their fingers and keep their pre-election promises to the people of Portsmouth and the surrounding area.

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