Calls for Portsmouth shipbuilding industry to be ‘kick-started’ by new Royal Navy support ships contract

PORTSMOUTH could have a part to play in building new Royal Navy support ships, should the contract be awarded to Britain.

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 6:52 pm
Welding taking place on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: Sarah Standing (123196-8317)
Welding taking place on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: Sarah Standing (123196-8317)

That is the message from union representatives and politicians, who are calling for the city’s shipbuilding industry to be restarted.

Portsmouth’s long history of shipbuilding came to a halt in 2014, with the last piece of the HMS Prince of Wales leaving the dockyard in August.

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Welding taking place on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth. Picture: Sarah Standing (123196-8317)

Five years on, the MoD has put contracts to tender for Fleet Support Ships, which are used to supply fuel, food and ammunition to Royal Navy ships at sea.

Should Britain be awarded the contract, it is hoped that Portsmouth could have a part to play in the construction process.

Brian Hulley, regional organiser for trade union GMB, has written to defence secretary and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt asking for some of the work to be given to Portsmouth.

He said: ‘If the contract went elsewhere things would carry on as normal – but if the contract came to Britain then there’s no reason why Portsmouth couldn’t be part of that consortium.

Sections of the HMS Prince of Wales carrier were completed at the BAE shipbuilding in Portsmouth Naval Base, before shipbuilding stopped in August 2014. Picture: Paul Jacobs (142098-10)

‘It would take very little effort to get it running again, because you still have all the equipment and old staff here.

‘Everything is in place, just unlock the doors and switch on the lights.’

Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan says that 40,000 jobs are at risk in British shipyards due to a shortage of work following the construction of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers.

‘Britain’s historic ability to design, build and maintain its own warships is under threat, yet it doesn’t have to be this way,’ the Labour MP said.

Portsmouth North MP and defence secretary Penny Mordaunt has been contacted by trade unions and Stephen Morgan MP about the shipbuilding contract

‘We have seen first-hand in Portsmouth the consequences of government inaction on British shipbuilding – the closure of our own city’s shipyard under the coalition government was a disgrace.

‘For that reason, I have written to the new defence secretary to urge the government to support efforts by unions to back the UK’s shipyards and protect British jobs.’

Deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Steve Pitt, says you don’t have to be a politician to remember the impact that losing the shipbuilding industry had on the city.

He said: ‘My family worked in the dockyard so it’s in my blood.

‘It affected the entire city – it was a key part of Portsmouth’s lifeblood and even though we still maintain ships, it's just not the same.’