Dear Prime Minister,
The announcement that Portsmouth’s shipbuilding operations will come to an end next year, with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs, has dealt a blow not only to the city but to the nation.
Losing vital shipbuilding skills from this area poses an immediate risk to the south coast economy and also to national defence and our sovereign capability.
Putting all of the nation’s shipbuilding skills in one part of the country makes no strategic sense. Basing operations in one place reduces the ability to adapt to any future demands in shipbuilding. Once the Type 26 frigate programme is under way, how will the government cope, logistically and financially, in the event of delays or any potential export orders?
The fact this decision was also made ahead of the outcome of the Scottish referendum is shortsighted and fails to prepare for a vote in favour of independence.
We recognise that for the future there would have to be a reduction in the workforce in Portsmouth, but we fundamentally disagree that shipbuilding has to cease in the city entirely.
Do you agree with us that it is strategically important for the nation to retain this sovereign capability in Portsmouth and Scotland?
If so, we call on you to immediately suspend the decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth ahead of a Cabinet Office review into all of the options available, and urge you to:
n Ensure remaining work to be done in Portsmouth on the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers stays with the city’s shipbuilders.;
n 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.;
n 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.;
n 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.;
n Visit Portsmouth as soon as possible, with defence secretary Philip Hammond and the appointed minister, to discuss options going forward.
This is a matter of urgent national interest, and one which requires your personal attention.
Mark Waldron, Editor, The News,
Penny Mordaunt, MP Portsmouth North (Conservative)
Mike Hancock, MP Portsmouth South (Independent),
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council (Liberal Democrats)
Cllr Donna Jones, Group leader, Portsmouth City Council (Conservative)
Cllr John Ferrett, Group leader, Portsmouth City Council (Labour)
Gary Cook, Regional organiser, GMB union