THE government has answered 10,000 people who signed a petition calling for shipbuilding to remain in Portsmouth.
But critics have labelled the response – which says it was BAE’s decision – ‘predictable’ and ‘awful’.
More than 10,000 people signed an online petition on the government’s own website.
Rules say that if a petition reaches 10,000 signatures, the government has to provide a written response.
If 100,000 people sign up, the matter gets debated in Parliament.
The petition calls for naval shipbuilding to be kept operational in the city, following last month’s announcement by BAE Systems that it would put an end to its operations here.
Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said 10,000 campaigners signing the petition was a reflection of the fact the majority of people in Portsmouth were opposed to the closure of its shipyard.
He said: ‘It shows the overwhelming majority of people think it was a terrible decision.
‘The government needs to think again, but sadly it looks like it won’t think again, and neither will the Ministry of Defence. The response is a predictable, awful response.
‘It’s disappointing and absolute tosh.
‘The government, if it had chosen to, could have told BAE this is what we would like – it is the customer after all.’
In a statement e-mailed out to the 10,000 people who signed the petition, the MoD said: ‘Rationalisation of BAE Systems’ industrial footprint was a key requirement of the 15-year, terms of business agreement signed between the company and the previous government in 2009.
‘This made provision for a reduction in UK warship building demand, following completion of the build work on the Type 45 Destroyers and the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers.
‘This volume of work represented an artificial high which was always going to tail off.
‘The MoD did not stipulate how BAE should rationalise its shipbuilding business.
‘This was BAE’s decision, based on a considered review of its maritime business and was not related to political considerations.
‘Portsmouth will maintain its proud maritime heritage as the home of much of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet and the centre of BAES’ ship support and maintenance business.’
The petition remains open and will be considered for debate by the backbench business committee if it can reach the 100,000 signature mark.
The petition can be found online at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/56694.
As previously reported, city leaders are still waiting for a response from David Cameron after sending him an open letter on the front page of The News last month.
A march was being held today to protest job losses planned by BAE Systems.
Unions were expecting a big turnout in Portsmouth following last month’s announcement that shipbuilding is to end.
Workers were due to meet at Victory Gate at 11am and march to Guildhall Square before holding a rally there.
Unions say that the Ministry of Defence should work with them and the defence giant to find ways of generating opportunities that would save jobs.