Admiral backs plan for future of Portsmouth’s shipyard operation

Admiral Sir Alan West
Admiral Sir Alan West

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FORMER first sea lord Admiral Lord Alan West has added his support to one group’s bid to take over the city’s shipyard.

A group of Portsmouth businesses is forming a plan to start the Portsmouth Shipbuilding Company.

As reported in The News, the group, led by Portsmouth-based marine consultants Stanton Burdett, wants to take over the shipyard once it is vacated by BAE Systems.

Now, Lord West has quizzed the government over what funding might be available to continue a shipbuilding facility in Portsmouth and whether it backs the group’s plan.

Lord West said: ‘I believe there has been no proper consideration of the sovereign capability for warship building in this country.

‘I was very nervous when it was decided to move from Portsmouth to Scotland before the outcome of the referendum is known.

‘So I was very keen to keep something going. It might help by having the first of the new offshore patrol vessels built here.

‘That would fill the yard down here in Portsmouth.’

Lord West has asked the government if it has considered allocating one of the Royal Navy’s new offshore patrol vessels to be built in Portsmouth, whether it supports the idea of a management buy-out of BAE in the city, whether the new minister for Portsmouth can allocate funding, and whether the National Security Council has considered the imperative for sovereign warship-building capability.

The former first sea lord’s intervention comes after prime minister David Cameron last week appointed senior MP Michael Fallon to become a minister for Portsmouth.

As reported, Mr Cameron then wrote a letter to Portsmouth, outlining his support for the shipyard, in response to an open letter on the front page of the newspaper.

Donna Jones, the leader of the Conservative group in Portsmouth, was one of those who signed the open letter.

She said: ‘I’m delighted the prime minister has replied to the letter.

‘Time is really of an essence and we need to get something sorted as quickly as possible.

‘The next step now should be to get as many people around a table as we can with Michael Fallon.’

Mr Fallon did not answer calls from The News yesterday.