TORY science minister Sam Gyimah hailed Portsmouth as a ‘hub of talent’ – but has failed to say how the government will protect hundreds of at-risk jobs at a key aerospace firm.
The minister gave a glowing endorsement of Portsmouth’s technology sector during a visit to firms in the city this week.
Mr Gyimah was shown around IBM’s emerging technologies team and their lab as well as the HQ of aerospace giant, Airbus, in Hilsea, to look at the role scientists have in building some of the world’s most advanced satellites.
Following his trip to the city, the MP said: ‘Science has no borders. Portsmouth is a hub of talent, with highly skilled experts researching, developing and producing the innovations of tomorrow.’
However, despite the minister’s gushing remarks over the city’s scientific prowess he failed to give any assurances of what the government would do to protect jobs at Airbus.
It comes after the international firm revealed plans to scrap its satellite HQ in Portsmouth – which is critical in supporting Europe’s Galileo satellite programme – after Brexit, instead moving the operation to mainland Europe.
Portsmouth City Council boss, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said it would be ‘disastrous’ for the city if this happened.
Asked on what he thought of the lack of reassurance given by the minister, the Lib Dem chief said: ‘I don’t think the Conservative government is in any position to give any reassurances.
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‘They’re an absolute and complete mess. Their actions over Brexit are just making things worse.’
He added there was a ‘very high risk’ Airbus would eventually pull out of the city due to Brexit.
‘This is really bad because these are just the sort of jobs – high-end engineering and highly-skilled jobs – we’re looking for in the city,’ he said. ‘Airbus leaving would be disastrous for Portsmouth.’
The government has previously outlined its industrial strategy, which looks to spend 2.4 per cent of GDP – the money the country earns – on supporting homegrown research and development schemes by 2027.
Mr Gyimah said the UK was eager to remain a part of the Galileo project and would continue working with the EU on this.
However, if a deal was not struck, the government would consider building its own satellite scheme in the UK to maintain key engineering jobs.
In August, the government announced it will invest £92m from the Brexit readiness fund, which will inform the decision to create an independent system as an alternative to Galileo.
Mr Gyimah added: ‘The UK has been instrumental in building components for Galileo and we have been very clear that the UK wants to continue as part of the programme.
‘Here in Portsmouth, and across the country, people with world-leading skills and expertise are at the forefront of satellite manufacturing and security. That’s why we have invested £92m to look into a UK alternative to Galileo.’