Minister for Portsmouth: ‘We’ve come a long way’

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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Minister for Portsmouth

It’s my job as minister for Portsmouth to make sure it stays that way.

Things have been difficult these past few years, but far from basking in old glory, you will remain at the forefront of the maritime industry – that is our commitment to the people of Portsmouth.

I’ll be in Portsmouth to celebrate all that’s great about this city and to add my backing to a package of support.

We will sign the Solent Growth Deal, our long-term £124m commitment to boost local infrastructure, create at least 5,000 jobs and 10,000 new homes. I will be working hard with my colleagues across government to make sure you see results as quickly as possible, banging down doors to make sure there are no hold-ups and hunting down new opportunities for Portsmouth.

These include the hugely-exciting Ben Ainslie Racing, which I can’t wait to visit. We’re putting £7.5m into the project and I have now agreed a number of conditions with the team, including employing at least half their staff from the local area, taking on at least 14 apprentices and giving local suppliers the top priority.

The boats themselves – two AC45 race boats, one AC62 race boat, and six support boats – will require over a hundred people to construct and will be among the most technologically-advanced racing boats in the world.

“But it’s not all about new projects: we need to make the best of Portsmouth’s traditional assets, too, which is why we’re revamping the Historic Dockyard and binding together the old and the new to create a space for start-ups, the creative industries and a traditional boat-building academy.

And to really secure a better, brighter future for Portsmouth we know that it’s vital to invest in our young people. I’ll be launching the See Inside Manufacturing campaign at Airbus. Working together with industry, this initiative will invite schoolchildren aged 11 to 19 to get behind the scenes of the manufacturing industry and promote engineering careers.

I know that the future of the BAE site remains a top priority for Portsmouth – and so it is for me. I’m working with Michael Fallon, my predecessor, on the search to secure a new tenant, and making sure they are doing everything they can to keep skilled shipbuilding jobs in the area.

We’ve come a long way in the past year, with huge effort from a wide range of people. Today is another important milestone on that journey for Portsmouth; we are working hard to turn our shared vision for Portsmouth into a reality.

Mr Hancock wrote this piece for The News to coincide with his visit to Portsmouth today