BAE Systems: Portsmouth dockyard fears 'are speculation'

HMS Daring HMS Daring was commissioned from BAE Systems for the Royal Navy

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Defence giant BAE Systems has said fears that it could close Portsmouth dockyard are "speculation".

The firm said consultants had begun working on a review of its UK business at the end of 2011 but no decisions had yet been made.

It said doing so was part of its terms of business with the government.

The Sunday Times has reported that the firm is considering closing the dockyard, on which some 3,000 jobs in the area depend.

About 1,500 workers are employed at the dockyard with a similar number in support roles.

In November, MPs condemned the firm over its plans to cut 3,000 jobs, which BAE blamed on falling orders.

'Going to be changes'

Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock said he had written to BAE Systems last week asking for clarification on its plans but had not had a response.

He said BAE Systems could not take such a decision "unilaterally" because, while the firm had a "construction element" inside the dockyard, the base was part of the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Mr Hancock said: "They have publicly said earlier in the week, last week, that they were bringing in consultants to look at the whole of this operation, and so there are obviously going to be changes."

He added: "I cannot believe that the sort of investment they've made in the naval base for the construction of warships is something they're going to easily give up on.

"So I'm optimistic that the case for Portsmouth as a shipbuilding, construction and refit area is sustained.

"The one thing for certain is that the MoD have announced no plans whatsoever to consider the future of the naval base in Portsmouth."

However, the GMB union said there was only a few years' work left at Portsmouth, with the prospect of winning orders to build merchant ships "not great" because of subsidies paid to firms in other countries, particularly the Far East.

'Deeply unsettling'

Regional organiser Gary Cook said: "BAE is looking for naval work from other nations.

"There are opportunities and the UK is very well placed because we have a reputation that is second to none, with a highly skilled and motivated workforce. This must be made to count for something."

The Unite union said the news would be "deeply unsettling for the people of Portsmouth".

Ian Waddell, national officer, said: "BAE must meet with the unions as a matter of urgency to discuss all solutions for saving the workforce. Equally, the government has a role to play."

A BAE spokeswoman said: "As part of our business planning activity, we are reviewing how best to retain the capability to deliver and support complex warships in the UK in the future.

"This work is ongoing and we will keep our employees and trade union representatives fully informed, as it progresses."

BAE employs 100,000 workers worldwide, 40,000 of whom are based in the UK.

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