Plymouth’s political leaders today responded furiously to a new shock plan that could see Devonport’s existing refit facilities moved to Portsmouth.
Luke Pollard MP, Council Leader Tudor Evans and local union Leader Matt Roberts from the GMB today pledged to fight any attempt to move frigate refit work from Devonport “tooth and nail.” The news of Portsmouth’s bid for Devonport’s refit work comes only a week after Ministers backed Devonport’s campaign to be the home of the new Type 26 frigate fleet. This decision meant that the Type 23 frigates already based in Devonport will be replaced like for like with their new replacements.
After Portsmouth lost out on being the base for the eight-strong fleet of warships to Plymouth, leaders from Lib Dem-run Portsmouth City Council vowed to lobby the government for the refit role.
There is no current competition for the refit work and the new Type 26 frigates are not planned to come into service until the late 2020s meaning refits could happen in the 2030s. Devonport is already having facilities upgraded to prepare for the new Type 26 frigates. The MOD has investment millions in Devonport’s refit facilities and has a secure order book for the refit of the Royal Navy’s current Type 23 frigates.
Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
“As Devonport’s MP I will fight tooth and nail to protect the jobs we have in the dockyard and naval base. If Ministers decide to rip the frigate refit work from Devonport and give it to Portsmouth to make them feel better about losing out on the basing for the Type 26 frigates it will be like snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
No serious Minister would agree to move thousands of jobs from one dockyard to another simply to make Portsmouth feel better. Devonport has the expertise, the skills and the world-class engineers that make continuing refit work in our city a no-brainer. I have written to the Defence Secretary asking him to rule out any chance that Devonport will lose the refit work for the new frigates. My message to Portsmouth is simple: hands off our dockyard – it is not up for grabs.
Defence decisions should be made strategically and based on best value to the Royal Navy and to the country. Devonport is hands down the best location for frigate refit and basing of frigates. Splitting the basing and the refit goes against the decision Ministers just made to make Devonport the home for the new frigate fleet. We know we have to fight to keep the Royal Marines in Plymouth, get the new Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships build in Britain and ensure our plan to recycle the old nuclear submarines is properly funded, and now we have a new campaign to defeat Portsmouth’s plan to take our refit jobs from us.
I am confident that we will win but Ministers should be clear that frigate refit work is staying in Devonport and is not moving.”
Tudor Evans, Leader of Plymouth City Council said:
“I do hope the government will reject this proposal by Portsmouth – one that would remove well paid jobs and high skills from an area that needs them and give them to an area that has plenty. It is plainly one of the most militarily, economically, socially and politically illiterate ideas in the history of British seafaring and isn’t going to work.”
Matt Roberts from the GMB Union said:
“The thousands of skilled people who work in the dockyard were celebrating the decision to base the new frigates in Devonport only a week ago. But the uncertainty over Portsmouth’s bid to take the refit work from Devonport casts a grey cloud that we don’t need. Devonport should be home to the new frigates and to their refit work. We have many years of work on refitting the Type 23 frigates and we are best placed to refit their replacements as well.
“The basing of the new frigates in Devonport gave workers a boost. As we campaign for more work in building the Type 31 frigates and the new supply ships for the Royal Navy we are being forced, again, to fight for our city. The GMB and dockyard trade unions stand shoulder to shoulder with our political leaders in rejecting any plan to rob us of the frigate refit work.”