Portsmouth's ministerial post could be scrapped by government

THE future of the Minister for Portsmouth role is hanging in the balance.

Wednesday, 20th July 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 9:02 pm
Mark Francois, who has just vacated the role of Minister for Portsmouth

The government set up the post in 2014 following the loss of shipbuilding jobs in the city.

But the third incumbent Mark Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford left the role last week after prime minister Theresa May’s reshuffle.

A spokesperson for the Department for Local Government & Communities said yesterday: ‘We are still waiting to hear on the future of the post at this moment.’

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They refused to say whether the post could be scrapped.

Michael Fallon, the Secretary of State for Defence held the role when it was created in January 2014 before Matthew Hancock took the role in July 2014.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the Liberal Democrats group on Portsmouth City Council said he believed the 
role should stay until its purpose was fulfilled. ‘For me, the important thing is to bring back shipbuilding to the city – if we do that, then we won’t need the post,’ he said.

The News revealed earlier this year that hopes to bring back shipbuilding to the city were dashed after Magma Structures and the Ministry of Defence could not agreed a deal for the composite structure giant to move into the former BAE shiphall.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson added: ‘Michael Fallon did a good job, but it’s been very disappointing to see the efforts from Mr Hancock and Mr Francois.’

He said that if the post was continued, it had to go to someone who knew the city well.

Flick Drummond, MP for Portsmouth South said: ‘I don’t know whether there will be another Minister for Portsmouth but I do know that Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt and I are working hard to lobby government and get the investment that we need.

Councillor Colin Galloway, Ukip leader on the council said: ‘I thought that when we given the role originally it was an appeasement to the people of the city after the shipbuilding blow.

‘It’s difficult to say if we should continue the role but they must be intrinsically linked to the city.’

Former prime minister David Cameron pledged back in 2014 that the government would do ‘everything we can’ to protect the future of the shipyard.

Two and a half years since the pledge and shipbuilding has not returned.

Councillor Donna Jones, the city council’s leader praised Mr Francois’ tenure. She said: ‘Mark Francois has been a diligent Minister for Portsmouth. He took on the role with passion – he was last in the city just four weeks ago and was always available on the end of the phone.

‘I have written to Mark to thank him for his support to Portsmouth.’