Defence Secretary told to shut Portsmouth dockyard

Review calls for delay in £5bn warship programme, putting 3,000 jobs under threat

Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, has been told that the historic Portsmouth Dockyard should be shut down and the supercarrier warship programme delayed in a report he commissioned into the future of British shipbuilding.

The recommendations could put up to 3,000 jobs on the south coast at risk, while the second of the 65,000-tonne £5bn supercarriers would be delivered at least two years later than planned to sustain workload at defence giant BAE Systems' other dockyards.

The move would be a massive blow for Portsmouth, which can trace its naval roots back to the early 13th century and was where the Mary Rose was built in 1509.

BAE is sensitive over the likely closure of a dockyard, having come under fire from workers and politicians over job losses in Brough, North Yorkshire, and the shutdown of the 165-year-old Vickers Armstrong factory in Newcastle. However, The Independent on Sunday revealed in January that BAE had hired LEK Consulting to examine the future of Portsmouth and two dockyards on the River Clyde.

BAE was concerned that work would dry up once the second supercarrier, the Prince of Wales, was launched in 2018, with the Type 26 Global Combat Ship programme not commencing until 2020.

Following this news, the Ministry of Defence asked Admiral Sir Robert Walmsley, a former chief of defence procurement, to look into the supercarrier programme. Sir Robert's report is now sitting on Mr Hammond's desk and forms a major chunk of the defence department's value-for-money review of its biggest projects.

Under the terms of a 15-year agreement struck with BAE's shipbuilding arm in 2009, the department would have to cover the cost of any dockyard closure, while it has also guaranteed £230m of shipbuilding and support work a year. A Whitehall source said that the report showed there will soon be "excess capacity" in Britain's shipbuilding industry, and that it had listed four BAE dockyards in order of risk of shutdown.

The 169-acre Barrow-in-Furness shipyard – not thought to be included in LEK's assessment – was "bound to survive … as it can build anything", which includes submarines. Scotstoun and Govan in Scotland were also likely to be safe, while Portsmouth is "vulnerable".

"If they don't shut something the shipyards will be inefficient, we all have to face up to that," said the source, who added work would still be needed to prevent workers kicking their heels ahead of the Type 26 programme. "They might want to keep the Prince of Wales carrier building programme running, as you can't improve efficiency without a market."

An MoD spokesperson said: "The current Government asked the new Chief of Defence Materiel to review all of our major projects to assess progress and value for money. Sir Robert Walmsley's report is part of this process and the department will consider its findings in detail."

Referring to the LEK report, a BAE Systems spokesperson said: "As part of our business planning activity, we are reviewing how best to retain the capability to deliver and support complex warships in the UK in the future."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there