6 Nov 2013

1,800 dock jobs go amid anger over spin

At 11am, BAE is expected to announce to the City that 1,800 jobs will be lost at various dockyards, almost a 50:50 divide between Portsmouth and Govan.

BAE Shipyards Face Threat Of Job Losses

No jobs are expected to be announced lost at Scotstoun or Plymouth.

The MOD will order three more off-shore patrol vessels which will help to keep Govan busy as the aircraft carrier work dies off and the next big contract, building 26 global combat ships waits to start in 2015/16.

The way the original government/BAE contract was drafted, the government would still have to pay even if the dock at Govan was doing nothing, so something has been found for them to do.

Portsmouth’s long history of ship-building will come to an end, and it will be relegated to ship maintenance and repair.

This is going to get chewed over across two hours in the Commons, with Scottish Questions followed by PMQs, and then a statement by the Secretary of State for Defence Philip Hammond.

Some are tearing their hair out about the way it has been announced.

One senior Whitehall source blamed the MOD and thought that they were guilty of portraying this as Portsmouth being sacrificed on the altar of the independence referendum.

The truth, the source said, was actually that Govan was always the jewel in the BAE ship-building crown, and with Scotstoun literally just across the river from it, had advantages that everyone knew Portsmouth would struggle to match when the day came for the aircraft carrier work to diminish.

“We saw this coming five or six years ago, ” one Westminster source said, but the way it leaked out has been “over-spun” and “risks giving Alex Salmond the credit” – ie, his referendum has saved Govan’s bacon.

One former minister said it had echoes of the leak suspected to have come from the MOD which floated the idea that the UK-rump might try to keep its nuclear subs at Faslane as some kind of Cyprus-style sovereign base even if the Scots voted for independence.  Elsewhere in Whitehall they pointed the finger at the Scottish Office wondering if it had been trying to make sure the positive news that Govan would stay in ship-building was heard over the sad news about hundreds of job losses.

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See the Defence Secretary’s statement to the Commons in full below:

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