ALMOST 1,000 jobs in Hampshire have been axed as ship building in the county comes to an end after 800 years.
BAE has announced it is axing 1,775 across the UK, with 940 of those going from its ship building yard in Portsmouth.
Currently the firm employs 1,200 people in its shipbulding operation at Portsmouth, as well as another 3,200 in Scotland.
Shipbuilding operations will end in Portsmouth in the second half of next year, but an engineering team will be retained to support the new Type 26 warships, which will be built in Glasgow.
Hundreds of staff from Southampton work at the Portsmouth facility, after all work from the former Vosper Thornycroft site in Woolston was moved there in 2003, ending 100 years of shipbuilding on the banks of the Itchen.
The news was given to workers at a series of meetings at 11am across the affected sites, before they were allowed to go home for the rest of the day.
BAE Systems has been reviewing its operation beyond the construction of two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy, which are due to be complete by 2015 and has made the decision to cut a total of 1,800 ship building jobs.
In an attempt to soften the blow, the Royal Navy has said it will invest £100m in Portsmouth Naval Base, which is to be expanded ready for the new aircraft carriers which are to be based in the city.
In a statment, defence secretary Philip Hammond said: “I am also pleased to announce additional investment in Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare for the significant increase in tonnage as the home port for the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers and destroyers.”
He later told the House of Commons today, that the loss of shipbulding capability in Portsmouth will be "harsh blow to the city".
But he added that the government together with Portsmouth and Southampton city councils were in discussions over a possible "city deal" for the area to give it major jobs boost.
He also added that government maritime experts would also advise the Solent LEP on how to progress its maritme industry.
Southampton Test MP Alan Whitehead said: “This is a devastating blow to the region and brings an end a long tradition of ship building on the South Coast.
“It isn’t just people in Portsmouth who will be hit, Southampton will suffer too and it will radiate to skills, backup and assistance in the area just as it has with the Ford closure.”
He called for Solent area MPs and business leaders to meet with business leaders to help those whose jobs are at risk and added: “We need to look at what assistance can be provided, the consequence of job losses and for alternative employment.”
He questioned the decision to save jobs in Scotland and said: “There will be vehement denials that there is no political involvement but it looks like it is that way.
“Keeping an eye on what’s happening in Scotland means that Portsmouth loses out.”
David Hulse, GMB national officer and chair of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions' shipbuilding national committee, said: ''Following today's announcement from BAE Systems, we are able to confirm that no shipyard will be closing even though there are substantial job losses in the pipeline.
''There is no doubt that this is a devastating day for the UK shipbuilding industry and the company will have justify to us the job losses planned.
''We have arranged a two-day meeting with the company at Farnborough next Monday and Tuesday that will be attended by officers and shop stewards from all the yards and all the unions. This meeting will examine in detail the business case and all aspects for scheduling work in the yards to complete building the carriers, starting work on the Type 26 ships and any other work.''
"This is a bad day for the area but we need to look forward."
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham, who represents the part of the city where the former VT site is, said:
“Labour secured ship building on the south coast with shares of the destroyer and carrier programmes.
“Government statement today made it clear that no efforts have been made to win new work for Portsmouth in the past three years and that they have agreed to transfer work from Portsmouth to other shipyards.
“Many on the south coast feel they have been sold down the river by a government whose interest and attention has been elsewhere.”
At Prime Minister's questions, David Cameron said: "These are extremely difficult decisions and our first thoughts should be with all of those that are affected.
"We want our Royal Navy to have the best and most modern ships and the best technology. That means we will go on building warships on the Clyde, we will be announcing three new offshore patrol vessels, keeping that yard busy rather than paying for it to remain idle as the last government proposed.
"In Portsmouth, yes there will be job reductions, but there are many more people involved in ship servicing than in ship building, so the workforce will go from 12,000 to 11,000."
In his response to the SNP's Westminster leader Angus Robertson the PM added: "No one should be in any doubt of two things: under this Government we will have aircraft carriers, Type 45 destroyers, the new frigates, the hunter-killer submarines.
"And there's something else they should know: if there was an independent Scotland we wouldn't have any warships at all."
- Additional reporting by Rob Merrick