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Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 15:33 GMT
Blair visits Tyneside shipyard
Tony Blair and Swan Hunter chief Jaap Kroese
The PM sees Tyneside success on the horizon
One of Newcastle United's most famous supporters, Tony Blair, paid a visit to another Tyneside success story on Thursday.

The Prime Minister was at the Swan Hunter shipyard on the River Tyne, where he met apprentices and saw work in progress at the yard.

Work has begun on Ministry of Defence orders to build two vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary at the yard, which has fought to win new orders during tough economic times.

During his visit to the yard the premier predicted that Newcastle United would win the FA Cup.


Chairman Jaap Kroese said the firm, which employs more than 700 people, was in the running to increase its order book.

During his 45-minute visit to the Wallsend yard, Mr Blair refused to discuss the state of the NHS and how it will be funded in the future.

Tony Blair praised the adaptable workforce at Swan Hunter
Mr Blair spent 45 minutes at the Wallsend yard

But after his visit he said: "I was delighted to be at Swan Hunter to see for myself how they have managed to adapt to a changing economic climate through partnerships between management and the workforce."

Mr Kroese said the Prime Minister's visit will have pleased his workforce, which is due to double over the next couple of months.

He said: "This is a morale-boosting visit for our workers.

"The whole of the manufacturing sector is suffering at the moment but I have been in the business for 20 years and we see these dips now and again.

Cup tip

"For Swan Hunter, it is a very good time."

The shipyard's longest-serving employee John Strachan, who has been with the company for 40 years, asked the prime minister, who is a fellow Newcastle United fan, whether the team would win the FA Cup this year.

Mr Blair grinned and replied: "Yes, we will."

He was later due to visit an exhibition put together by young people in Durham, before visiting his Sedgefield constituency.

Click here to go to Tyne
See also:

14 Feb 02 | Wales
Steel firm demands Blair help
08 Feb 02 | Africa
Blair receives tribal welcome
25 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair on attack over public sector
01 Oct 01 | England
Shipbuilding returns to River Tyne
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