Sir: On Thursday (6 April), the Queen will name the new liner, which has just arrived from her German builders, the Oriana. The new flagship of the UK merchant fleet, as she has been termed, has provided thousands of jobs in Germany and should earn her builders repeat orders and years of work in the future.
Your coverage (4 April) pointed out the last Oriana, delivered in 1960, was built by Vickers here in Cumbria, at Barrow in Furness, and the success of the German yard is in sharp contrast to the Barrow company, now VSEL, which through concentrating on warships and feeding the appetite for arms of successive governments, at home and abroad, has been laying off skilled men in their thousands.
In the early 1980s, Barrow built ships serving in opposite navies who were trying to sink each other in the Falklands war. Vicker's latest main product, the Trident nuclear submarine, a ruinously expensive dinosaur of the Cold War.
The German Oriana is a symbol of utterly British folly. We allow meaningful, worthwhile jobs to wither and go to our competitors abroad, while pursuing a dead-end arms trade that has no future other than warfare and bloodshed, on the one hand, and the dole queue on the other.
VSEL is probably to be taken over, by either British Aerospace or GCE. They should look at Oriana and tell Lord Sterling of P&O: we will build the next one.
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