Rolls-Royce news shows there’s no time to waste

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We are not privy to conversations held behind closed doors at companies around the area, particularly at sensitive times of redundancies and closures.

So we can only take Rolls-Royce at its word when it says that its decision to close its maritime arm in Hilsea is not linked to November’s seismic announcement by BAE Systems to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

As that decision proved, even the giants of manufacturing and engineering are having to make tough decisions, however unpopular and controversial they may be.

But what is worrying in this case is that it may give the impression that Portsmouth is losing its place as a centre for maritime firms. As a fluttering stock market often shows, impressions sadly count for a lot in business, whatever the reality, and the last thing we need is for a narrative to take hold that sees a procession of firms taking flight from the area.

In fact, this was the exact opposite scenario to that which we hoped for when Michael Fallon was named Minister for Portsmouth last month.

We hoped – and indeed we still believe – that that appointment would presage confidence in the city being restored, and companies moving in, not out. This is not to say that Mr Fallon is in any way to blame for Rolls-Royce’s decision, not at all. But we look to him for action to create an opposing narrative, for decisions that will encourage firms to come in.

We’re pleased Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt has arranged a meeting with Rolls-Royce to explain about the brighter economic future that could be on the cards for Portsmouth and our stretch of the Solent.

It’s imperative that we do not let skilled workers drift away from here; we need to retain a critical mass and keep up the tradition that has seen Portsmouth shipyard’s expertise be world-renowned for decades.

Rolls-Royce’s decision proves there is no time to waste. Let’s see meetings set up between Mr Fallon and groups wanting to take on shipbuilding in Portsmouth when BAE goes. Let’s see some action. There’s no time to lose.