A leaked letter from the Secretary of State for Defence has suggested a possible lifeline for Appledore Shipyard.

However, the letter to Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox, from Gavin Williamson, said while this could sustain jobs for workers, it would ‘not be enough’ to secure the long-term future of the yard.

“We have considered various possibilities from existing programmes and discussed these with Babcock,” wrote Mr Williamson.

“This includes, for example, bringing forward a potential £60million package of work at Devonport, thereby providing additional work for Appledore workers.

“Unfortunately, however, our discussions with Babcock have established that this would would not be enough to secure the long-term future of the yard.

READ MORE: Appledore Shipyard representatives hand in petition to Ministry of Defence

“It is worth reiterating that this is not a decision tied to any specific Ministry of Defence (MOD) programmes and, as such, I have received no assurances from Babcock that the company would keep the yard open if help were offered by the MOD.

“Ultimately, the future of Appledore remains a commercial decision for the company, who are facing a long-term workload gap for the shipyard.”

Mr Williamson said the MOD was committed to encouraging a more competitive shipbuilding industry, and spent £1.7billion with Babcock last year.

He added the company would ‘continue to play a key role in the maritime sector’.

Since the letter emerged on Facebook yesterday (Wednesday), the Save Appledore Shipyard page confirmed it was discussed in the meeting on Tuesday but they had been asked not to talk about it as it was ‘not public information’.

READ MORE: Hundreds march through Bideford to chants of ‘Save Our Shipyard’

A statement on the page said: “It’s a step in the right direction but still work to be done to bring people home. It goes to show that all the pressure we have been putting on has worked and we are being listened to.”

Speaking after the meeting on Tuesday, when UNITE and GMB members visited Parliament, GMB representative Jake McLean said he was feeling optimistic.

“It went really well, and we will just keep putting pressure on them,” said Mr McLean.

“Geoffrey Cox answered a few questions and I think he has realised we are not going away.

“I think Babcock has realised this too, though we have had no response from them at all.

“We also met with quite a few of the Labour Party front benchers which was good.

“When we came out of the meeting Jeremy Corbyn was there so we told him about the petition; he said he was going to sign it.

“He said he was going to get Vince Cable on board too, so I am feeling optimistic.”