Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 14:08 UK

Most base jobs safe says minister

Submarine at Devonport Naval Base
The base and dockyards support 24,000 local jobs, it is claimed

The number of workers at Devonport naval base will be about the same after a review, says a minister.

MPs asked Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth for clarity about the future of Devonport amid speculation about its frigates and submarines.

Mr Ainsworth said that a review of Portsmouth, Devonport and Faslane naval bases was still ongoing.

But he did offer a promise that the naval yard's workforce of about 4,500 would stay "roughly" the same.

I am doing my best to get to a point where we can be clear as we can, but it is enormously complicated
Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth

He said he hoped to make a detailed announcement before the end of the year, but was prevented from doing so sooner because of commercial negotiations with Devonport's owners, Babcock Marine.

Mr Ainsworth said: "There may be a slight decrease in workforce, but Devonport's workforce will stay roughly the size that it is now."

He said he understood people's "frustration" at the delay in making a decision.

Oldest base

The Maritime Change Programme which started 22 months ago, is considering a number of options to improve "efficiency and effectiveness".

Devonport, which maintains, upgrades and fuels the Royal Navy's submarines, is the oldest naval base in Britain.

It and the commercial dockyards next door are estimated to support about 24,000 jobs in the area, according to a Plymouth University study.

But there are fears that submarines will be moved to Faslane in Scotland and its Type 22 and Type 23 frigates to Portsmouth.

Mr Ainsworth said: "I am doing my best to get to a point where we can be clear as we can, but it is enormously complicated.

"We have to get a proper commercial arrangement.

"We cannot do or say that anything that detracts from that."

He added: "Some of these issues could be clarified before the end of the year but depend on negotiations with owners Babcock.

"If I can make some announcements sooner then I will, but the complexity means that cannot do it yet."

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