Stephen Hepburn MP: I want us to have a great industrial future, not just a past

Sections of aircraft super-carriers leaving the A&P Tyne yard.
Sections of aircraft super-carriers leaving the A&P Tyne yard.

Shipbuilding will enjoy a bright future here on Tyneside if our workers and firms are allowed to show they are the best.

Yards such as A&P Tyne in Hebburn deserve a lion’s share of new warship orders after winning accolades for its fantastic effort in fulfilling contracts for the Royal Navy’s new aircraft super-carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

It’s why I cautiously welcomed the Government’s long-awaited National Shipbuilding Strategy last September, which set out plans for new Type 31 frigates.

Under industrialist Sir John Parker’s proposal, the warships will be built in blocks across many UK yards then assembled at a central hub, rather than constructed solely at the BAE Systems site on the Clyde in Scotland, putting the work up for grabs.

Here on Tyneside we pay our taxes so we must see our fair share of the contracts or there will be hell to play if the Tories ignore us.

I hoisted the flag for our local industry in the House of Commons by steaming into a Parliamentary debate on shipbuilding and I vow to fight for the right of all our workers to work and proper apprenticeships to be created to give the young genuine opportunities.

As a Jarra lad born and bred, I know full well the importance of work coming to the area, and I was delighted the previous Defence Secretary accepted my invitation to go with me to visit A&P Tyne, and I’ll try to get the current one, or the next one, to do the same.

It is dangerously frustrating the Tories refuse to support financially our British yards when so many countries around the world promote their industries.

And it’s a lazy argument to falsely claim the European Union stops us. It doesn’t. Or Brexit will sort it.

That won’t help when Conservatives do nothing for the North and don’t care about manufacturing.

We need in Britain a little of the spirit of French President, Emmanuel Macron, who stepped in to nationalise his country’s biggest shipyard in St-Nazaire to stop it being taken over by the Italian company Fincantieri, leaving thousands of French jobs more vulnerable, after South Korean owner STX collapsed.

Could you imagine Theresa May and the Tories doing that to save British jobs and a strategic asset? No, me neither.

Jeremy Corbyn, if we had him as a Labour Prime Minister, would know what needs to be done to secure and revive shipbuilding.

He loves our region as he’s proved it by visiting Jarrow and the North East regularly.

Shipbuilding on the Tyne has a huge heritage. Along the river the yards, like the old Palmers in Jarrow, employed generations of families and brought pride and income to the area.

We built the lot from warships such as Ark Royal to liners like Mauretania as well as tankers and cargo ships for the world’s commercial fleets.

The Margaret Thatcher wrecking ball smashed our yards, steel mills, factories and mines.

I want us to have a great industrial future and not just past. My job is to give us a chance.