A union flag flies over the entrance to the naval dockyards, where BAE Systems are also located

Minister to aid Portsmouth's shipbuilding recovery

A Minister for Portsmouth has been appointed to help the city recover from the loss of Royal Navy shipbuilding, Downing Street says.

The move follows the announcement last November by BAE Systems that it plans to close its Portsmouth shipyard in the second half of this year and move Navy shipbuilding to Scotland, with the loss of almost 1,000 jobs.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has named Michael Fallon, who currently holds ministerial posts in the Departments for Business and Energy, as minister with special responsibility to support jobs and growth in the south Hampshire city.

The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said: "I am glad that it seems ministers are listening and we are going to have somebody like Michael to help us cope with the loss of shipbuilding. We have had just silence from the Ministry of Defence about this, so I am pleased that another department is willing to listen.

"He will have the ability to pull everything in Westminster and Whitehall together to make sure that we know what support there is available, not only from the UK Government but also from Europe."

Portsmouth South Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock said the move is the first time a minister has been given responsibility for a particular provincial city since Michael Heseltine was made minister for Liverpool in the wake of the Toxteth riots of 1981.

He added: "He has got to look at how we can preserve the skills base in Portsmouth and the greater Portsmouth area. We have got to make sure he realises the size and scope of the problems and can work with local authorities and unions to try to bring about a mechanism which will go some way to encourage other businesses – either shipbuilding or maritime-related – in the space vacated by BAE in the shipyard.

"We have to bear in mind that Michael Fallon has already got two other jobs. I just hope he has the time and energy to devote to the issues we are facing."

Asked why Portsmouth had been chosen for particular attention, rather than other cities and regions which have suffered economically in the wake of the financial crisis, Cameron's official spokesman told a Wesminster media briefing pointed out the areas strategic importance.

"This takes into account that there are particular circumstances here with regard to recent announcements in terms of shipbuilding and the continued transition towards Portsmouth as the centre for Royal Navy maintenance and refurbishment,” he said.

"There are very particular circumstances here with regard to Portsmouth and the fact that there have been changes to Royal Navy shipbuilding, an industry that is very closely and directly linked to the Government."

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