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Merseyside to get 2.5m pounds government support

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday announced a pounds 2.45m support package for the Merseyside area, which will be hardest hit by the closure of the Cammell Laird shipyard.

The junior trade minister, Neil Hamilton, disclosed the development grant at the end of a short Commons debate on the Birkenhead yard's future, one of a series of backbench debates that took place during an all-night sitting.

Cammell Laird's owner, VSEL, is closing the yard next summer with the loss of 800 jobs, blaming the recession and its inability to gain access to subsidies from the EC's shipbuilding intervention fund, which it would use to convert the yard into a merchant shipbuilder.

Mr Hamilton told the House: 'I am pleased to be able to announce that junior environment minister Robin Squire has just approved a pounds 2.45m city grant towards a pounds 7.2m scheme of industrial development in the City Challenge area at Valley Road in Birkenhead.

'The project involves the reclamation of 11 acres of derelict land and the building of 173,000 square feet of industrial and warehouse units,' he said. The scheme would provide space for 400 new jobs.

Labour Merseyside MPs earlier had pressed the minister to back local plans to take Cammell Laird from VSEL and maintain it as a shipyard.

Opening the debate, Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasey, demanded: 'We want the return of the yard to the local community for the pounds 1 VSEL paid for it in 1985. We still think it has a viable future.'

Mr Hamilton promised that the industry minister, Tim Sainsbury, would seriously consider any proposals.

But he stressed that 'circumstances have conspired in such a way that it is not possible to undertake profitable shipbuilding at Cammell Laird as it appears'.