10 minutes with Mike Hancock - Portsmouth Dockyard
- Credit: Archant
Mike Hancock, MP for Portsmouth South, addresses the recent cuts by BAE to Portsmouth Dockyard and explains what it will mean to the area
How did the cuts to Portsmouth Dockyard come about, in your opinion?
The cuts to Portsmouth Dockyard were the direct result of three things. Firstly, the Government’s need to do a deal with BAE on the sharing of cost over-runs on the aircraft carriers. Secondly, I think the Ministry of Defence and the Government felt that if they closed yards in Scotland (BAE is cutting jobs at three sites there) this would be an advantage to the Scottish National Party and so part of the decision obviously reflected that. Thirdly, BAE found themselves in a position where they own three yards dealing with the same design and capability and were unable to continue to retain all three; Portsmouth has unfortunately paid the price.
And how do you see this affecting Portsmouth South?
940 job losses is a bitter blow but the people who service shipbuilding will also be badly affected. The hotels in the area had a high occupancy rate due to a number of people coming from other parts of the UK. So all in all, we as a city are going to suffer a very big economic loss.
Will the employees facing job losses receive any support?
I hope that the Government, BAE and the City Council will put in place as many opportunities as possible to try and find alternatives whether locally, nationally or within the existing framework of BAE’s other operations in Portsmouth. It is vital we support the workers facing job losses arising through no fault of their own.
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Talk us through the investment ideas currently being proposed.
At present there are no investment ideas being proposed except for those that are contained within the city deal, which will come to Portsmouth in the near future. These are directed at improving the infrastructure and releasing defence owned land in the city for future development; but they are long term proposals rather than short term solutions for the thousands looking for work.
And when will this start to take effect?
This must happen as soon as the Government release the money and we are working with them now to ensure that happens.
Can you explain what the future holds for the dockyard?
The dockyard will be the home base of the two new aircraft carriers and I suspect that the maintenance work will remain here. We have an agreement that the type 45 destroyers will be based here and maintained by the workforce at BAE. We are also hoping that other ships will come to Portsmouth and we will be lobbying the MOD to ensure that some of the work on the new type 26s will be done in Portsmouth. So there is still a very good future for the dockyard in the sense that it is still the home of the Royal Navy and along with Plymouth, hosts all of the Navy service fleet.
You questioned the Prime Minister on why shipbuilding was being taken away from Portsmouth and, in some instances, being moved to Korea. What was his answer?
I was very disappointed that the MOD was prepared to let contracts go to Korea and dismayed that BAE did not even tender for these. We were unable to stop the decision being made even though the Prime Minister has, for a long time, resisted agreeing to the closure of Portsmouth as a ship building facility. His answer to my question in Prime Minister’s Questions was completely unsatisfactory.
How do you plan to fight for the area and the families who are affected?
I will continue to work with the people who are losing their jobs along with BAE and Government Ministers. I have no hesitation in believing that we owe the workforce and their families for the commitment and loyalty they have shown over the years.
I will do everything I can to help them through this very difficult time.