Leaders promise to keep up fight after 50 days of silence

NO REPLY Prime Minister David Cameron
NO REPLY Prime Minister David Cameron
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IT WAS a stark plea for help in the wake of a devastating announcement that Portsmouth’s shipyard was to close.

But 50 days after an open letter to David Cameron was published on the front page of The News, the city has still received no reply.

City leaders have today spoken of their disappointment and anger at the snub.

The letter was signed by union representatives, council leaders from all three major parties, and both of the city’s MPs.

John Ferrett, a Prospect union negotiator and one of the signatories, said: ‘I think the failure to answer the letter is symptomatic of the coalition government’s indifference to the plight of workers in Portsmouth facing redundancy.

‘I’m also aware the lord mayor wrote to the prime minister inviting him to Portsmouth to discuss this matter and this was declined by Number 10.

‘Furthermore, I wrote to Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, on behalf of Prospect union members facing redundancy, asking for a meeting in order that we could put forward our case for retaining shipbuilding in Portsmouth.

‘Not only did he refuse to meet with the union he did not even reply personally.

‘It is almost as if the government feel that by ignoring those campaigning for the retention of shipbuilding in Portsmouth they can make the issue go away.

‘However, the trade unions are determined to continue campaigning all the time our members are building ships in Portsmouth.’

The letter was signed by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock, the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Conservative group leader, Councillor Donna Jones, John Ferrett, Gary Cook from the GMB Union, and the editor of The News, Mark Waldron.

Mr Hancock said: ‘I hope Mr Cameron’s new year’s resolution is to reply to Portsmouth’s plea for help and that he could show some compassion to the city by coming down.’

Councillor Donna Jones is the leader of Portsmouth’s Conservative group.

She said: ‘I’m disappointed neither the prime minister or the secretary of state for defence have had the time to visit Portsmouth following recent announcements, however I’m still hopeful a visit will take place in

2014.’

MAIN POINTS OF THE OPEN LETTER TO THE PM

· Immediately suspend the decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth ahead of a Cabinet Office review.

· Ensure remaining work to be done in Portsmouth on the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers stays with the city’s shipbuilders.

· Build at least one of the navy’s new Offshore Patrol Vessels in Portsmouth, and guarantee future work in the form of sections of the upcoming Type 26 frigates.

· Give a public assurance that the MoD­-owned land currently in use for shipbuilding at Portsmouth Naval Base will remain available to support that work.;

· Appoint a named minister to act as a single point of contact for discussions between city leaders, unions, BAE Systems, other interested parties, and your government.

· Visit Portsmouth as soon as possible, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and the appointed minister, to discuss options going forward.