Stephen Hepburn MP: Shipbuilding industry in danger of sinking because of this Conservative government

A&P Tyne shipyard in Hebburn.
A&P Tyne shipyard in Hebburn.

We could make the North East into one of the world’s great shipbuilding centres with a Government believing in the Tyne and the Wear instead of the Conservatives selling us down the river.

The industry continues to thrive in yards such as A&P Tyne in Hebburn where the skills and expertise of a first-class workforce helped build the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers plus the nuclear-powered Astute fleet of submarines.

Yet I, like you and the Labour Party, are ambitious for our region, confident we can build on what we do now to revive past glories, returning shipbuilding to its rightful place as a powerful engine of the local economy.

So we’re all right to be furious the Tories are sinking a proud tradition by dangerously threatening to sell abroad to the cheapest foreign bidder a £1billion order for three Royal Fleet Auxiliary support ships.

What madness if this work is sailed to Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, South Korea or Spain which have all expressed an interest.

It’s hard to imagine the Governments of Germany, Italy, Holland, Poland, South Korea or Spain doing the same and I’m demanding the Ministry of Defence stands up for British shipyards which served the Royal Navy magnificently for centuries.

Constructing these ships in Britain would benefit those working in and supporting our world-class shipbuilding industry yet the Tories once again defy logic in search of false economies.

In Parliament I demanded the Government back a British shipbuilding sector with the 6,500-job order for the three vessels instead of continuing the industrial vandalism that’s a hallmark of Conservative Governments throughout the ages.

The damage was intolerable when over the course of the 1980s a staggering 75,000 jobs were lost in UK shipyards during Margaret Thatcher’s war on manufacturing.

Tory claims to be overseeing a renaissance in British shipbuilding are the phantom invention of myth makers when Tyneside employers pushed through one set of redundancies after another in recent years.

UK shipyards which used to launch half of all new ships worldwide are down to a market share of less than half a per cent but I want that to grow.

Shipbuilding isn’t a lame duck and will have an exciting future again in the North East with a Labour Government in London for the whole country.

Past defence secretaries I took to A&P Tyne left the famous yard deeply impressed and I am pleased that the Defence Minister has agreed to visit the Hebburn site so he too learns what we’ve to offer.

I know a Labour Government under Jeremy Corbyn would support our yards and a supply chain creating many more jobs.

Jeremy’s a regular visitor to the North East and knows the Tyne well, speaking twice in Jarrow and annually to the Big Meeting of the Durham Miners’ Gala before huge, excited crowds.

Tories who swung their giant wrecking ball to smash coal mining into history will never be allowed to scuttle shipbuilding. My fight is your fight and together we’ll give shipbuilding the expanding future it deserves.