Meeting with chancellor is big chance to state our case

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At last, a shaft of light amid the darkness over the future of shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

As many hundreds of people begin a new year with their jobs in the balance, city Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt was today due to have the ear of chancellor George Osborne at a meeting at the House of Commons.

It was Portsmouth’s big chance to state its case because this is a man whose influence extends to every government department.

The message is a simple one really. Ever since BAE Systems announced in November that it was moving shipbuilding to Scotland, the sword of Damocles has been suspended above company workers in Portsmouth plus all those in the local supply chain who would also be affected.

But there is an alternative to so many people losing their livelihoods and our proud tradition of shipbuilding being allowed to die.

It’s crucial the government realises that, although BAE is moving out, there are companies who want to keep the city’s shipyard in business. So far, 17 have come forward and more may well follow.

That suggests strongly the yard has a future, but we need the government to realise this and do all it can to help.

Ms Mordaunt recognises her audience with the chancellor is an ideal opportunity to make him aware that businesses who want to move here could be helped by grants.

If he understands the background, then they stand a much better chance of success in getting financial support.

Of course, we’ve also been trying to get to speak about shipbuilding with another senior figure in the government.

Fifty-six days on, prime minister David Cameron has still not responded to an open letter from The News calling on him to address the future of shipbuilding in the city.

But one of our MPs getting to sit down and discuss the issue with the chancellor is a good start.

We just hope Ms Mordaunt is right when she defends Mr Cameron for his silence thus far.

And we await with interest both his views and those of Mr Osborne.