Vince Cable has spoken of his confidence that Portsmouth will recover after the loss of BAE shipbuilding – and said that the shipyard needs to adapt.
The Secretary of State for Business spoke about the city’s recovery during a visit to Portchester manufacturer Magma and Fareham College’s Centre of Excellence for Engineering, Manufacturing and Advanced Skills (Cemast).
Dr Cable, a senior Lib Dem MP, said places like these are key to the area’s future.
During yesterday’s visit, Dr Cable said he was impressed with the area’s growth and that he was confident Portsmouth will recover from the loss of shipbuilding in the city.
Dr Cable said: ‘Portsmouth is already bouncing back. We tend to overlook the fact that Portsmouth will remain as a very big naval base – with all the maintenance of the aircraft carriers to come and the other ships, there will be a lot of jobs around naval work.
‘The shipbuilding area will have to adapt to other uses, we know there are companies already queueing up wanting to use the site and there are other industries springing up and growing which will absorb the people and their highly-skilled, highly-valued jobs.’
Dr Cable did admit that Portsmouth should not solely focus on ship building and used the examples of the space industry, computer games industry and tourism as other ways of recovery.
Dr Cable added: ‘There are some really good things happening here and I can understand why people are preoccupied with the shipyard, it’s only natural.
‘I understand it is a big shock, but there are other very, very good things happening here.’
Dr Cable’s comments sparked anger from trade unions.
Gary Cook, the GMB regional organiser with responsibility for shipbuilding, said he was surprised Dr Cable’s views were at odds with the prime minister’s recent pledge to retain shipbuilding in Portsmouth. Mr Cook said: ‘The coalition is clearly not joined up.’
John Ferrett, the negotiations officer for the Prospect trade union, said Dr Cable’s views were ‘interesting’ and that he felt the government had acted prematurely to allow shipbuilding to end in Portsmouth.
Mr Ferrett said: ‘There is still huge potential in the naval base and there is still a job to be done in terms of shipbuilding. We still feel there is a case to be made for retaining shipbuilding here and we will continue to keep that view.’