‘Blame Government, not owners, for Appledore closure’ – Navy analyst
The Government is solely to blame for the closure of Appledore shipyard, according to a defence analyst.
The Ministry of Defence’s lack of investment in new surface ships was the reason for the announcement, says Chris Cope of Warship World.
He said it was “extraordinary” for Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox – the Attorney General – to blame Appledore owners Babcock for the closure.
“The only body responsible for this decision is the Government,” said Mr Cope, the parliamentary correspondent for the publication.
“It seems clear that the board of Babcock waited for Monday’s Budget to see whether the Chancellor would put new money into the defence budget for surface shipbuilding, before making its decision.
“The £1 billion for defence announced by Philip Hammond in his Budget will be spent on cyberwarfare and submarine construction.”
It was “telling” that Babcock announced the yard’s closure three days later.
“The Conservative Party acts true to form (look at its record over the last 30 years) on new ships for the Navy which it promises will be expanded: much talk and no action,” said Mr Cope.
When Babcock revealed the closure and the loss of 199 jobs to the area, Mr Cox said the company “lacked a real commitment to Appledore”.
He said that “significant and substantial offers of assistance” had been made to the company to enable it to support the workforce pending the outcome of its bid for the Royal Navy Type 31e frigate and while it sought further work. The offers included a £60 million package that could have provided additional work for the yard, said Mr Cox.
Fellow Conservative MP Peter Heaton-Jones – whose North Devon constituency borders Appledore – said it was “extremely regrettable” that Babcock had taken the “commercial decision” to close the yard.
The MoD a package of work worth £60 million could potentially have safeguarded the future of Appledore, he said.
Babcock has said that all the workers will be offered jobs at its other facilities – 140 are already on short-term redeployment to Devonport Dockyard.
The firm recently lost a contract with the Armed Forces of Malta, leading to financial problems.
Plymouth Labour MP Luke Pollard, whose Sutton and Devonport constituency includes the city yard, said: “I want ministers to come to the House of Commons on Monday to explain what help they are giving to Appledore workers and how they will help Devonport support Appledore workers.”
Torridge district councillor Peter Christie said the yard closure was a “hammer blow” for the area.
“We have some of the lowest wages in Britain. These jobs are skilled and relatively well-paid so to lose them is really bad,” he said.
Inside the Appledore shipyard when work was more plentiful and the skills of the workforce were being put to good use. This week owners Babcock announced its closure