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The Hoon Show.

Byline: By Gayle Tomlinson

Shipyard workers put Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon on the spot after taking their jobs fight to Parliament.

A delegation of 30 workers and GMB union representatives met Mr Hoon in Westminster Hall yesterday where they were given assurances he was working hard for them.

The men from Swan Hunter were able to tell Mr Hoon about their fears the yard would close if work was not brought to the Tyne urgently.

One worker told Mr Hoon that up to 400 members of staff had already lost their jobs and something had to be done now in order to save the rest.

Mr Hoon, who was on his way to a meeting, listened to the workers concerns and gave his assurance that he was doing everything he could to save the yard.

He said: "We are looking hard at this issue. We want to help. We are looking hard at that issue and it will depend on decisions elsewhere in Government. It will not depend on me. We need to do something about it but I cannot guarantee anything."

The chance meeting came as the workers were lobbying their constituency MPs to get their assurance that they would work together to help bring much-needed defence work to the North East as part of the Chronicle-backed campaign.

They were able to talk with 14 North MPs, while the other eight were either abroad or tied up with Government business. Nearly all the MPs have given their support either in person or in writing.

Plater Gary Olsen from South Shields said: "It went very well. I just hope it is not too late. It was a real plus being able to talk to Geoff Hoon and hopefully he will now act."

GMB Regional Secretary Tom Brennan said he was pleased with the result and said it was a boost the workers had been able to speak to so many MPs, as well as Geoff Hoon.

He said: "I am pleased overall at the result. The majority of members of parliament have responded to the call from us. I am certain they will write to the ministers so the exercise has been worthwhile.

"We now have to keep the pressure on and keep the momentum up and make sure we do not lose out when these contracts are awarded."

David Clelland, Tynebridge: All the MPs are fully behind the Swan Hunter shipyard to ensure that the flow of work is kept going to keep the jobs and skills on the river.

Alan Campbell, Tynemouth: I've been working with Stephen Byers and Nick Brown to get the MoD to bring work forward before workers lose their jobs. I want it to do everything it can for the skilled workforce on the Tyne.

Stephens Byers, Tyneside North: It is vital work is found to bridge the gap. As local MPs we have met with Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to push the case for new orders at Swans. We must work together for a successful outcome.

David Miliband, South Shields, was not able to attend the lobby but in a letter of apology said: I am not in Parliament but I am happy to talk to members in the office or in South Shields.

Jim Cousins, Newcastle Central, was in Newcastle and unable to attend. In a letter of apology he said he was happy to meet representatives of the GMB to discuss what can be done to help the yard.

Kevan Jones, Durham North, was in America but said: I fully support the lobby. The Labour Government brought back ship building to the Tyne. It is important we maintain that base for the economy and the skills.

Ronnie Campbell, Blyth Valley: Orders are being brought forward for the Clyde but Swan Hunter is left behind. I want to see the Government bring forward vital orders so we don't lose valuable jobs and skills.

Doug Henderson, Newcastle North: Getting orders at Swan Hunter is very important for the whole city not just the area immediately next to the yards. We will be making representations to the Government.

Nick Brown, Newcastle East and Wallsend: What we don't want is Swan Hunter to run down to a few workers. We have work in the medium term but work to get us from now to two years' time is needed.

Denis Murphy, Wansbeck: I understand 300 people could be made redundant at the end of this week. As a region we cannot afford to lose this vital skills base. I will do whatever I can to ensure the yard gets more work.

John McWilliam, Blaydon: I will do everything I can to support the campaign to bring the yard more work. I will lobby the MoD to bring forward orders for Swan Hunter in advance of the super carrier coming to the Tyne.

Joyce Quin, Gateshead East and Washington West: I am very concerned about the loss of jobs and skills. We need to ensure we do not lose jobs in the short term. I will support Nick Brown and the constituency MPs.

Stephen Hepburn, Jarrow: The Government calls on us in times of crisis, like the Falklands war when shipyard workers worked 24 hours a day. We must now remember the debt we owe and keep the industry alive.

Bill Etherington, Sunderland North, was in Brussels and unable to attend the lobby.

Chris Mullin, Sunderland South, was unable to attend as he was in a Foreign Office meeting with the Prime Minister of Angola.

Stuart Bell, Middlesbrough: Shipbuilding has been the mainstay of northern industry for more than a century. We are all working to maintain that and we are putting ministers under constant pressure.

Iain Wright, Hartlepool: As a member of the GMB, and with not a great deal of men from Hartlepool working at Swan Hunter but a fair amount, I obviously support the measures to ensure Swan Hunter remains viable.

Hilary Armstrong, Durham North West: Swan Hunter has a record for highly-skilled work and I understand the anxiety for short-term orders. Everyone's trying to find a way to solve this and I support them.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 17, 2004
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