Cammell Laird closure to end Mersey shipbuilding

THE DEATH KNELL sounded for shipbuilding on Merseyside yesterday with the announcement that the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead will close next year. Nine hundred jobs will be lost in an area where unemployment is running at 11.8 per cent.

Cammell's owner, VSEL, blamed the closure after 160 years on the recession and the refusal of the Government and European Commission to grant subsidies.

VSEL warned two years ago that Cammell would close once its warship order book was completed, unless a buyer was found to convert the yard into a merchant ship builder.

The closure of the yard, which employed 40,000 in its heyday, will mark the end of an era.

The yard built its first vessel, an iron barge, in 1828. Some of Britain's most famous ships have rolled down the slipway, including the first Ark Royal aircraft carrier, two of the four Polaris nuclear missile submarines - Revenge and Renown - and the Conqueror, the nuclear-powered submarine that sank the Belgrano during the Falklands war.

Noel Davies, chief executive, blamed the demise principally on the EC and Government's refusal to allow Cammell access to the shipbuilding intervention fund. It did not qualify because it was designated a warship yard at privatisation, but Mr Davies said it could have been sold three times over had it been eligible.

Other factors were the recession, which dissuaded potential buyers, and uncertainty over the pounds 2bn Point of Ayr gas field development in Liverpool Bay, which would have provided orders.

Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, blamed the company, saying: 'We are not going to roll over and die because VSEL have decided that is best for them.' The yard's joint shop stewards committee will meet Wirral MPs next week to draw up plans to keep the yard alive.

The yard, one of the last remaining shipbuilders in Britain, is due to close in July once construction of a Royal Navy replenishment ship and the submarine Unicorn is complete.

VSEL hopes to redevelop the 154-acre site for mixed industrial, leisure, retail and housing use.

Jaguar will cut 200 jobs next year from the Radford engine building plant in Coventry.

The Post Office is to make 1,000 counter staff redundant, according to Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath, with the bulk are expected in Wales. The Post Office denied a report in the Daily Mirror that it planned to shed up to 30,000 jobs, a sixth of the workforce.

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