Portsmouth minister ‘confident’ shipbuilding is going to make a comeback

James Crook

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MINISTER for Portsmouth Matt Hancock says he is ‘very confident’ shipbuilding will be brought back to the city.

He confirmed a decision over the future use of Portsmouth’s shiphall will be revealed by the end of January – and said three companies are in the running to take it over.

JPNS-18-12-14-010 ''Matthew Hancock, the minister for Portsmouth, during a visit to Portsmouth on Wednesday.

JPNS-18-12-14-010 ''Matthew Hancock, the minister for Portsmouth, during a visit to Portsmouth on Wednesday.

It comes after defence secretary Michael Fallon revealed to The News he would make an official announcement next month and a short list of only two was in place.

Mr Hancock confirmed he is doing everything he can to deliver on the prime minister’s pledge that the firm which takes over will be in the business of building ships.

David Cameron gave his commitment to The News he wants shipbuilding to come back after the decision was made by BAE Systems to move its shipbuilding duties to Scotland in November last year with the loss of 900 jobs.

Speaking to The News during a visit to Portsmouth yesterday, Mr Hancock said: ‘I met Michael Fallon this week to discuss the procedures now we have a short list of three (for the shipyard).

‘We are aiming for a decision by the end of January.

‘So we are in the final stages of making a decision and all three options have very interesting proposals.

‘I’m looking forward to working with Mr Fallon and other colleagues to come to a final decision.’

He added: ‘We’re acutely aware of the prime minister’s commitment. When the prime minister makes a commitment like this, it benefits Portsmouth.

‘It’s my job to deliver this commitment, and that’s what I’m doing. I’m very confident we are going to deliver on that commitment he has given.’

When asked if there is any future in the city minister role once a decision is made over the yard, Mr Hancock said there was ‘much more to be done’.

He said he is helping with proposals to create a university technical college in Portsmouth, and met council officials yesterday to discuss the bid.

He is also helping the city to clinch more money in the next round of grants in the Growth Deal programme.

‘The job as the minister for Portsmouth has grown a huge amount,’ Mr Hancock said.

‘I’m keen to work on the UTC proposals to make sure we get the right skills in the city.

‘In the time since the BAE shiphall decision, unemployment has fallen in Portsmouth by 32 per cent.’

Council gets backing in efforts to redevelop Northern Quarter

PORTSMOUTH minister Matthew Hancock is putting pressure on the city council to ensure it works on alternative plans for the Northern Quarter.

He says while it is the authority that should take the lead on the issue and not the government, he is supporting action being taken to ensure the site of the former Tricorn Centre is still developed.

It comes after the council revealed developer Centros could not commit to building a £300m retail complex there due to financial reasons.

‘I want to make sure people are pushing forward and if things need unblocking in government, then I am always willing to get out my Dynorod and unblock them,’ he said.

‘Having spoken to council leader Donna Jones, I know there are plans to take it forward.

‘This is something where my job is more about ensuring momentum is kept going, because it is a city council responsibility.’

To read The News’ view on this click here.