During a ministerial statement made yesterday by the Rt. Hon. Philip Hammond MP about BAE System’s decision to end shipbuilding in Portsmouth, the Island’s MP Andrew Turner asked what the announcement will mean for the Isle of Wight’s economy.
BAE’s decision to build the new Type 26 frigates in the Clyde dockyard in Glasgow, will lead to the loss of over 900 jobs in Portsmouth by the end of 2014, although 11,000 will remain in the dockyards and related industries. In the meantime the Clyde dockyard will be building three new Royal Navy patrol vessels which will ensure that skills levels are maintained.
The Minister announced yesterday that more than £100m will be invested in new infrastructure over the next three years to ensure that Portsmouth remains the largest centre in the UK for support and maintenance of surface ships. It was also disclosed that Admiral Rob Stevens, the former chief executive of the British Marine Federation, is to chair a new maritime forum advising the Solent local enterprise partnership on its maritime vision.
In discussion with Mr Hammond, Mr Turner asked:
One strength of the Isle of Wight’s economy is its historic involvement with shipbuilding; a number of my constituents work in the Portsmouth dockyard and many companies on the island are part of the supply chain. What assessment has been made of the impact of this announcement on the Isle of Wight’s economy?
In response, Mr Hammond said:
I must confess to my hon. Friend that I have not assessed the impact on the Isle of Wight economy specifically. I know, however, that the local enterprise partnerships and local authorities have been aware of these challenges for some time. If it will help my hon. Friend, I will dig out what assessments have been made by others and draw his attention to them.
Speaking about the announcement, Mr Turner said :
“BAE’s announcement yesterday was a devastating blow to the Solent area and to the people who work in shipbuilding. This decision has been rumoured for a long time but my heart goes out to those who found out yesterday they are likely to lose their jobs. Although this has no direct impact on the BAE Cowes radar site, there are Islanders and Island companies who will be affected by this decision. The Minister yesterday praised the constructive engagement of the unions in what has been a difficult process, and I know that locally Phil Rudd, the Unite representative at Cowes has offered to assist his mainland colleagues on this issue.
“Although the news yesterday was bad, we now need to make sure that the Island benefits from Government funding that will be going into the Solent region. To do that we will need to have
a clear picture about how this decision affects us. Once I have received the information promised by the Minister I will be working with others to ensure that the Island gets the best possible deal. I also welcome the news that there will be a new maritime forum for the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, which includes the Isle of Wight.”