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Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Unions hail shipbuilding summit
Shipyard
Unions want much-needed work for UK shipyards
A shipbuilding summit has been hailed by unions as a "welcome start" in reversing 25 years of decline in the industry.

The summit on Thursday agreed there was a big world market for merchant and military ships, which UK yards could tap into.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers joined the meeting in London, which unions said showed the government was in "listening mode".

John Prescott
John Prescott: Government is listening
Issues including training, productivity and financial support will be explored further and discussed again in the autumn.

Peter Booth, national officer of the Transport and General Workers Union, said there was a world market for UK yards if they could compete on a "level playing field."

He welcomed this week's announcement that up to 5,500 jobs will be kept within the UK's defence industry, thanks to a 1bn order for three new Type 45 destroyers for the Royal Navy.

"Thegovernment has got the clear message from the unions and the employers that we want to see this week's orders as a platform for future growth," he said.

Union officials urged ministers to make sure that forthcoming orders for new roll-on roll-off ferries for the armed forces went to UK yards.

'Empty claims'

The Ministry of Defence is currently re-tendering for the contract, after failing to award it to a UK yard the first time round.

Subsidies and investment support in Europe, America, Korea and Japan have left UK yards at a competitive disadvantage.

Tory trade spokesman Nick Gibb told the Commons that the government had failed to tackle the EU over the subsidies.

Energy minister Helen Liddell said she had met with ministers in both Germany and France two weeks ago to specifically discuss the matter.

"In the EU there is already considerable action against Korea, which of course is one of the major sources of difficulty for the shipbuilding industry," she said.

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