‘Blame Gov­ern­ment, not own­ers, for Ap­ple­dore clo­sure’ – Navy an­a­lyst

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News - BY MARTIN FREE­MAN

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.

RICHARD AUSTIN

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

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