Belfast Telegraph

Government is urged to be inventive if it wishes to save shipyard

Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Secretary of State Julian Smith must "think outside the box" to try and save Harland & Wolff shipyard, a former Northern Ireland minister has said.

The Belfast business entered administration last week after a period of financial difficulty.

Labour peer Angela Smith was responsible for classifying its cranes as scheduled monuments while working in the Northern Ireland Office between 2002 to 2006.

The move meant the landmark structures could not be removed without Government permission.

Speaking days after her Labour colleague, the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, visited the shipyard and said his party would renationalise it, Baroness Smith said more needed to be done to save it.

"When you are involved in politics you have to find a way, you have to think outside the box and think of things that might look impossible first of all and see if there is a way forward," she told the BBC.

"I've seen what the Secretary of State has said and we need a bit more meat on the bones.

"All options need to be considered, including whether Royal Naval ships, or part of them, can be built there, because the cost of losing those jobs to all of Belfast is enormous."

Baroness Smith suggested the shipyard could be renationalised, even temporarily, to explore options for its future.

"You have to look at every single option and if it is practical then you have to go ahead with something like that," she said.

"It isn't just a commercial decision because it has such a wide impact.

"Governments have to be far more interventionist than they are used to being and see what can we do to help.

"They should do everything possible to try and ensure a sustainable future for the yard."

The Government had previously said the future of the shipyard was "ultimately a commercial issue".

Baroness Smith said her decision to protect the shipyard's cranes some years ago had been the right one.

"These are iconic landmarks about the history of Belfast and as such we felt that they shouldn't be able to be removed or altered in any way until the decision was properly looked at and examined," she said.

"But it was also a pragmatic decision because what everyone wants to see is that type of industry coming back to Belfast, and once they were gone they were gone."

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