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Leadership contestants give pledge on Rosyth

THE THREE candidates campaigning to succeed John Smith as Labour leader gave a joint commitment yesterday to fight the decision to axe Rosyth Royal Navy base, writes John Arlidge.

As union leaders prepared to launch a last-ditch campaign to save the yard, Tony Blair, Margaret Beckett and John Prescott said the closure plan was based on 'Tory incompetence and dogma', rather than a realistic assessment of strategic and economic needs. A Labour government would seek to create new work at the Fife base.

The decision to close Rosyth, which the Cabinet is expected to approve on Thursday, dominated debate at the Labour leadership hustings in Stirling. Mr Blair said internal Royal Navy documents demonstrated that the base was an excellent facility, carrying out vital work. Closure would threaten 8,000 jobs in central Scotland.

Mrs Beckett called on the Government to create fresh opportunities for skilled defence workers and Mr Prescott said economic studies indicated that it would be cheaper to retain the yard.