‘Government has not asked us to protect yard jobs’

Michael Fallon at Portsmouth Naval Base
Michael Fallon at Portsmouth Naval Base
Ian Luckett with Steven Small

Winning driver cannot believe his Lucketts

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MICHAEL Fallon has come under fire for not urging BAE Systems to stop jobs being axed in Portsmouth.

Dockyard unions say the minister for Portsmouth made a commitment in April that he would ask the defence giant to halt its shipbuilding redundancy programme.

It comes after BAE announced last year it will move its shipbuilding division from Portsmouth to the Clyde, in Scotland, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.

But Mick Ord, BAE’s managing director, revealed during talks with unions that neither Mr Fallon – nor anyone else from government – has asked the company to stop job cuts.

Mr Fallon was appointed minister for Portsmouth in the wake of BAE Systems’ announcement in order to help mitigate job losses.

The government insists Mr Fallon made no such commitment. John Ferrett, negotiations officer for the Prospect union, said: ‘Our members will once again be dismayed that a politician purporting to represent their interests has failed to give them the necessary support.

‘They will also view Michael Fallon’s role as minister for Portsmouth as mere window dressing, given his failure to follow through his commitment to ask BAE Systems to halt the redundancy programme.’

Unions wanted redundancies delayed until the outcome of the Scottish vote – as the country’s independence would mean naval ships being built outside the UK.

They also wanted skilled workers to be kept until alternative uses were found for the yard. Mr Ferrett was also told by Mr Ord the government has not asked BAE to develop an alternative plan should Scotland sever ties with Britain.

Mr Ferrett added: ‘This is astonishing given that a yes vote will leave the UK with no naval shipbuilding capability following the closure of the Portsmouth yard.’

City MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘It’s really unhelpful to suggest people are not trying to find alternative work for the yard.

‘What we have done is methodically pursue every possible bit of refit work.

‘Some stuff has been able to happen largely through BAE, but clearly we are struggling to get future work.’

Ms Mordaunt also said the number of shipbuilders losing jobs had gone down from 940 to 350 as the rest had either found alternative work within BAE or taken voluntary redundancy.

A government spokesman said: ‘No commitment of this sort (by Mr Fallon) was made.

‘He is working with the MoD to leave no stone unturned in the search for a robust commercial venture to occupy the BAE site.’

He said the government was working on the basis that the Scottish will say no to independence.

A £70m deal to safeguard 100 maritime jobs working on the navy’s newest destroyers has now been awarded to BAE Systems in Portsmouth.

The two and a half year contract, first revealed to The News by defence secretary Philip Hammond last month, will protect around 100 highly skilled jobs at BAE Systems in Portsmouth, the home port of the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers.

Further jobs are expected to be sustained in the company’s wider supply chain.

Minister for defence equipment, support and technology Philip Dunne said: ‘This £70m contract is good news for Portsmouth.

‘It will protect the skills of around 100 expert engineers and makes clear that the future of the city’s ship support industry is bright.

‘It is essential the ships receive top-class support and Portsmouth has the skills needed to do this.

‘There is no question the shipyard will continue to play an important role in the city’s future.’

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