Portsmouth MP opens up fresh talks with company interested in city shiphall

THE MP for Portsmouth North says she is reviving efforts to bring shipbuilding back to the city '“ but critics fear it is just more talk that will ultimately lead to nothing.

Saturday, 24th September 2016, 6:27 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:18 pm
The shipyard at Portsmouth naval base

Penny Mordaunt has revealed she had talks with a small boat builder yesterday which is keen to set up and start businesses in the city – and the vacant shiphall facility is on its radar.

Ms Mordaunt says the firm – whose identity she has not revealed – also wants a base from which to stage ‘world-class racing’.

But critics who campaigned against the decision by defence giant BAE Systems to axe shipbuilding in Portsmouth are sceptical.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Instead, union chiefs say an opportunity has risen for three RFA support vessels – which will provide assistance for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers – to be built in the UK. They say MPs must urge the government to bring some of that work to Portsmouth.

GMB official Gary Cook said: ‘We want shipbuilding; we have already got plenty of boat builders.

‘Conservative leaders have made promises, yet they have continuously misled the public as well as the workers.

‘I predicted that Michael Fallon would come and go, and that David Cameron wouldn’t deliver, and it gives me no pleasure in saying I was proven right.

‘But these RFA ships are real, and if Penny Mordaunt wants to do some lobbying, she needs to speak to the chancellor and get these ships built in the UK. This is not pie in the sky.’

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: ‘Let’s see if something materialises.

‘We have had so many false starts where we have had people say they will bring work to the dockyard and it hasn’t happened.’

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘Portsmouth’s maritime sector, both leisure and defence, is thriving, but I am always looking out for other opportunities, especially those projects and businesses that bridge the gap between commercial shipbuilding and defence work to make our job market even more resilient.

‘Yesterday I met with another that does that, to hear about their proposal and plans. They are looking for a manufacturing site for defence and leisure orders and also a place to base world class racing from.

‘I was extremely impressed and will be assisting them in their plans.’