The last Labour Government understood the importance of maintaining a strong defence industry to support our own defence, win orders overseas and strengthen our manufacturing base. Orders for destroyers and aircraft carriers helped to sustain work at VT – now BAE – at Portmsouth. (It was painful when VT moved to Portsmouth but it kept jobs – including 100s in Southampton – in Hampshire).
However, now Peter Luff – the Minister for Procurement – has said he will not act to protect Britain’s dockyards. Instead BAE Systems will decide whether to close one of Britain’s dockyards in order to make “efficiency savings”. Portsmouth – a key part of the South East economy together with Southampton – would be devastated if it were to face the axe.
Peter Luff is reported in the Financial Times as saying that this “is a BAE decision” and that “we want defence industries of the UK to be more competitive. I don’t believe it is for the government to tell them how to be competitive.”