'˜We don't need minister for Portsmouth - we've got two hard-working MPs' says council leader

THE minister for Portsmouth role is set to be scrapped by the government '“ despite calls for it to remain in place until shipbuilding returns to the city.

Tuesday, 26th July 2016, 6:02 am
Former minister for Portsmouth, Mark Francois Picture: Sarah Standing (151075-3489)

The News understands the department for communities and local government is planning to axe the post following Mark Francois’ departure – as it has not attracted any real demand for a successor to be appointed.

Tory council leader Donna Jones says she would welcome the role being scrapped, as the city already has two hard-working MPs who are fighting for people’s best interests in Westminster.

It comes despite Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, calling for the position – created to help bring jobs to Portsmouth after BAE Systems’ axed its shipbuilding division from the city in 2013 – to stay and for a successor to fulfil the purpose of the role.

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And Cllr Vernon-Jackson believes Portsmouth’s MPs haven’t done enough to ensure shipbuilding is brought back to the dockyard.

But Cllr Jones said: ‘Portsmouth is represented by two excellent MPs, Penny Mordaunt and Flick Drummond, they are our spokespeople for the city and Penny is also a minister in the government.

‘I supported the previous prime minister’s decision to appoint a minister for Portsmouth in January 2014; and it has worked well and helped us secure £8m in funding so Sir Ben Ainslie could set up his team base at the Camber, and it helped us through an uncertain period in 2014 and 2015. But I am of the opinion we don’t need a minister for Portsmouth going forward.’

Cllr Jones added: ‘I would like to thank Mark Francois who worked on behalf of the people of Portsmouth to help secure £1.75m from the coastal communities fund for the Hot Walls Studios project.’

Yet Cllr Vernon-Jackson said questions have to be asked about the ‘promises’ that have never been fulfilled.

Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘We have two MPs who are doing their bit, but we have not seen them get the government to fulfil its promises to bring back shipbuilding.

‘That was what the MPs said they would do, that’s what the prime minister said through the pages of The News.

‘The position should stay until the government delivers on the former prime minister’s promise to bring back shipbuilding.

‘One of the problems in the UK is, with our industrial policy, we have chopped and changed on everything. We need long-term decisions.’