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No 'viable' funding options to save H&W shipyard, says UK Government - Smith seeking to help workers

 

The UK Government has said there is no viable funding options available to it to save Belfast's Harland & Wolff shipyard and Secretary of State Julian Smith is working to help those affected.

The east Belfast shipyard was entered into administration on Monday.

Workers have called on the government to intervene with Labour saying the Prime Minister could nationalise the shipyard pointing to naval contracts expected to be distributed around the UK.

Unions and workers vowed to maintain a protest at the site until ship-building can be saved.

The DUP has said EU state aid rules prevent the government taking over.

The UK Government has said the issue is a commercial matter.

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On Monday evening a UK Government statement said the Secretary of State was "concerned" to see the historic shipyard enter administration and he understood "the impact such uncertainty has on employees and their families".

The statement continued: "Since taking office, the Secretary of State has held conversations with a number of stakeholders, including Invest NI and the local MP, to understand the background and current situation facing the company.

"He has worked with them to explore a number of options, including various funding options, none of which were viable.

"Today he is speaking to partners across Whitehall and in Northern Ireland, including the Department for the Economy and Invest NI, on the next steps to help those affected."

The statement said Mr Smith will work to do everything he can to secure the future of the historic site and ensure workers’ interests are protected.

He has agreed that the Northern Ireland Office will play a full part in Belfast City Council's manufacturing forum to examine growth opportunities for the sector in Belfast.

Unions are set to hold a conference call with the Conservative minister on Tuesday.

Unite Regional coordinating officer Susan Fitzgerald said: "We will be stressing that, If Harland & Wolff is allowed to close, the taxpayer will pick up the bill in terms of lost taxes and benefit costs, while Northern Ireland’s economy will lose vital skills and expertise as we head into the uncertain waters of Brexit."

GMB regional organiser Michael Mulholland added: "It is not too late for the government to, in the words of Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell at today’s mass meeting, step in and ‘nationalise to stabilise’, providing the space for development of a sustainable rescue plan.

"In order to ensure that a window for survival remains open, unions have been talking to the administrators and exploring ways of avoiding redundancy notices being issued to the workers”.

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Shell tanker Myrina being assembled in September 1967 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. PA/PA Wire

Shell tanker Myrina being assembled in September 1967 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. PA/PA Wire

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The Shell tanker Myrina being assembled at the shipyard. PA/PA Wire

The Shell tanker Myrina being assembled at the shipyard. PA/PA Wire

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January 1984 of Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast.

January 1984 of Harland and Wolff Shipyard, Belfast.

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The giant bows of an 80,000-ton tanker taking shape in the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff in July 1963. PA/PA Wire

The giant bows of an 80,000-ton tanker taking shape in the Belfast shipyard of Harland and Wolff in July 1963. PA/PA Wire

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07/01/1966 - Sea Quest, British Petroleum's 9,500 ton drilling rig, after being launched at the Belfast shipyard.

07/01/1966 - Sea Quest, British Petroleum's 9,500 ton drilling rig, after being launched at the Belfast shipyard.

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11/03/1971 - A view of Belfast from the giant Goliath crane.

11/03/1971 - A view of Belfast from the giant Goliath crane.

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11/07/1982 - The return of SS Canberra from the Falklands conflict.

11/07/1982 - The return of SS Canberra from the Falklands conflict.

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The SS Canberra in May 1982 of SS Canberra, on its journey south to the Falkland Islands. It was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Commando Forces News Team/PA Wire

The SS Canberra in May 1982 of SS Canberra, on its journey south to the Falkland Islands. It was built at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. Commando Forces News Team/PA Wire

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HMS Belfast which was built the Harland and Wolff shipyard. It is due to be placed into administration on Monday. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

HMS Belfast which was built the Harland and Wolff shipyard. It is due to be placed into administration on Monday. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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One of the five Stena Line ferries undergoing a refit at Harland and Wolff.

One of the five Stena Line ferries undergoing a refit at Harland and Wolff.

Hydraulic riveters at work during construction of SS Oceanic in the early 1890s.

Hydraulic riveters at work during construction of SS Oceanic in the early 1890s.

HMS Belfast being launched on St Patrick’s Day,1938.

HMS Belfast being launched on St Patrick’s Day,1938.

Shipyard workers finish for the day in 1966.

Shipyard workers finish for the day in 1966.

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Shell tanker Myrina being assembled in September 1967 at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. PA/PA Wire

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