KATE OSBORNE: Our proud shipbuilding past must herald a bright future
With a huge heritage in the area, shipbuilding on the Tyne was and still is one of our key industries in the North East.
Along the River Tyne, shipyards, such as the old Palmers yard in Jarrow, once employed generations of families and brought pride and income to the area.
When over the course of the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher’s wrecking ball smashed our yards, steel mills, factories, and our mines, it was seen as a war on manufacturing. A staggering 75,000 jobs were lost in UK shipyards, and the damage was intolerable.
In South Tyneside, we built warships and liners, as well as tankers and cargo ships for the world’s commercial fleets.
I desperately want us to have a great industrial future and not just one from the past.
That’s why after months of delay, I’m glad that last week, the Government come forward with their refresh of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, a £4 billion fund for new vessels which was set out in the 2020 spending review and the 2021 autumn budget.
The Ministry of Defence says that under the national shipbuilding strategy, the Royal Navy plans to introduce 150 new naval and civil vessels over the next 30 years.
But while this 30-year pipeline for the shipbuilding industry is welcome, it is vitally important that the Government commits to UK shipyards such as A&P Tyne to secure these jobs.
Yards such this have lots to offer the industry where the skills and expertise of a first-class workforce helped to build the Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers plus the nuclear-powered Astute fleet of submarines.
I have every confidence that the yard will build on these achievements to make itself available for any prestigious future orders from the Ministry of Defence.
Last week in Westminster, I raised this issue with the Defence Minister during Urgent Questions and called on the Government to commit to yards such as A&P to bring jobs to the area. I also asked him to commit to involving and consulting the trade unions in the new strategy.
It is so important that the Government places its confidence in the A&P Tyne shipyard in Hebburn and the Tyne during these difficult economic times.
I, like you and the Labour Party, are ambitious for our region, confident we can build on what we do now to return shipbuilding to its rightful place as a powerful engine of the local economy.