City leaders debate future of shipbuilding

FIGHTING ON Penny Mordaunt MP
FIGHTING ON Penny Mordaunt MP

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CITY leaders debated Portsmouth’s future following the announcement of the end of shipbuilding last week.

Members of the public were invited to ask questions to local MPs and key figures across the city in a debate in Action Stations in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard last night.

The panel included Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, council leader councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Gary Jeffries from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Mike Asteris from the University of Portsmouth and Cheryl Buggy from Express FM.

Meanwhile, Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen, joined the panel live from Westminster.

They covered issues including the Scottish referendum, and future plans for the dockyard once shipbuilding ceases next year.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘Portsmouth is the last yard in England with the ability to build advanced surface warships.

‘With the decision by the company and the government to allow the Portsmouth yard to close that means England is without the ability to build advanced surface warships.

‘If Scotland becomes independent and they vote in less than one year’s time the Royal Navy will have nowhere to build advanced surface warships and I think that’s really bad for the Royal Navy, really bad for the country and very, very bad for Portsmouth.’

Ms Mordaunt said she has not yet given up fighting to build Ocean Patrol Vessels (OPV) in the city. She said: ‘We were all hopeful that OPV work would definitely go to Portsmouth.

‘BAE have argued that it would cost them more to build the OPVs in Portsmouth - this I don’t believe having crunched some numbers and argued for the ships in the first place.

‘I have great sympathy and I think it’s the right thing to do that we do as much as we can for the defence budget.

‘What I have to prove is to demonstrate that we can build them within the same budget in Portsmouth.’

Mr Hancock said: ‘I can’t believe that people do not sit round a table in Downing Street and say: “What is the best solution we could hope for here?” and they came up with the one we’ve got.

‘What we have to do is look forward. How do we preserve a shipbuilding facility here? We have to make sure there is a facility there. We need to examine the alternatives.’

The debate was hosted by BBC Radio Solent.