Both North Devon and Torridge and West Devon’s MPs have expressed their disappointment in the closure of Appledore Shipyard.

It was announced by operators Babcock International today (Thursday) that the shipyard will close in March next year.

Some 200 jobs are now at risk. Read the full statements from both MPs below.

Geoffrey Cox - Torridge and West Devon MP

“For the past several weeks I have been meeting the Secretary of State for Defence every few days to receive reports from him on the intensive consultations in which the MOD has been engaged both internally and with Babcock with a view to persuading Babcock to keep Appledore Shipyard open and its workforce intact.

“As a result of these discussions, the MOD has made significant and substantial offers of assistance to Babcock designed to enable it to support the workforce pending the outcome of its bid for the Royal Navy Type 31e and while it sought further work. These offers included a £60 million package that could have provided additional work for the Appledore workforce. Unfortunately, Babcock have not found this sufficient to keep the yard open.

“While the Government is willing to do all that it reasonably could to help, what it could not do is replace a firm commitment by Babcock to the Yard.

I recently met Babcock International’s Chief Executive, Archie Bethel to urge the company to commit to the future of the Yard. I pointed out to him its importance to the local communities and the reputational damage it would cause to the company if, for example, the Yard were closed and if the company were subsequently to bid to build the Royal Navy Type 31e Frigate in Rosyth.

“I reminded him that I had spent some time meeting Sir John Parker while he was preparing the National Shipbuilding Strategy to lobby for Appledore and that the Shipyard was subsequently cited by Sir John in his Strategy as just the type of Yard that was well equipped to construct those vessels. Successive Secretaries of State had recently visited the Yard and there was a widespread understanding in the Government of its outstanding merits.

“I regret that although the CEO said that he would examine the options put forward by the Government, he gave me no unqualified commitment that any of them would persuade him to keep it open. I am dismayed and saddened at their decision today.

“It is now disappointingly evident that Babcock lacked a real commitment to Appledore and that, even with the help of the Government, it is not prepared to operate a commercial Shipyard and maintain the proud tradition of shipbuilding on the Torridge.

“I shall be meeting the Secretary of State for Defence early next week to hold urgent discussions with him and officials about how the Government might encourage other companies to take over operations at Appledore Shipyard.

“This is a bitter blow for the highly skilled workforce, many of whom have been working on the Torridge for decades, and one of my priorities will be to ensure that there is adequate support for them. I will be raising this with the Secretary of State for Business, to discuss how his Department could lend assistance.”

Peter Heaton-Jones - North Devon MP

“I am extremely disappointed and saddened that, despite intense lobbying, Babcock International has decided to close Appledore shipyard.

“This is a very worrying time for the employees and their families, as well as for the wider community. The first priority now must be to safeguard employment for the workforce, a large number of whom live in the North Devon constituency. I welcome Babcock’s commitment that all 200 employees will be offered jobs at other sites in the South West. However it is incumbent upon the company now to be very clear, very quickly, about the future employment arrangements for the Appledore workers.

“The shipyard is in the constituency of Geoffrey Cox MP, and, together with the unions and the local community, we’ve been lobbying extremely hard. Just this week, we secured from the MoD a package of work worth £60 million which could potentially have safeguarded the future of Appledore. Despite this, Babcock have taken the commercial decision to close the yard. This is extremely regrettable. We also called in the CEO of Babcock to ask him for a long term commitment to the Appledore workforce. This morning’s announcement does, at least, hold out the prospect that there will be no compulsory redundancies.

“Already this morning I have spoken to the Manager of JobCentre Plus in Barnstaple. I have sought assurances that any Appledore employees who come forward seeking advice and guidance will be accommodated as quickly as possible. It is clear there will be many questions at this difficult time, despite Babcock’s commitment that the entire workforce will be offered employment elsewhere. I thank JobCentre Plus staff in advance for the hard work that lies ahead.

“Once again, our first thoughts must be with the employees, their families, and the wider community who will be impacted by this news. It is extremely disappointing that Babcock have gone ahead with this decision, and we must now all work together to help those affected.”