THIS WEEK IN 1989: Contract cleaning for warships ‘dangerous’

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Government moves to hire private companies to clean Portsmouth-based warships would open the door to ‘bombers and vandals’, it was claimed.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary Martin O’Neill said plans to contract out warship cleaning ‘must rank as the most irresponsible and dangerous MoD privatisation so far’.

But his comments were condemned as a ‘gross over-reaction’ by Portsmouth South MP David Martin, who fully supported a scheme to improve the retention and recruitment of navy staff.

In the wake of the IRA bombing at Deal, Mr O’Neill said: ‘The expense of establishing proper staff vetting procedures will be too much for most companies.

‘The cost of supervising this work and the number of sailors involved at every stage is likely to render it not only a danger to security but an expensive folly.

‘The complex nature of modern ships would leave them vulnerable to vandalism and bombing,’ he added.

The Ministry of Defence said the move would free highly-trained crews from the drudgery of routine tasks and give them more time for professional activities.