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Birkenhead MP Welcomes New Mersey Ferry But Warns Against Offshoring Work Abroad

Cammell Laird shipyard

The Member of Parliament for Birkenhead has welcomed the announcement that a new Mersey Ferry has been commissioned – but reiterated his call for a cast-iron guarantee that the boat will be built in its entirety on Merseyside. 

First time in 60 years

The intervention follows the announcement that a new Mersey Ferry is to be built for the first time in sixty years, with extensive upgrades to one of the existing vessels also confirmed to be taking place. 

Mick Whitley MP, whose constituency includes the historic Cammell Laird shipyards, cited ongoing uncertainty about the degree of involvement of the Dutch-based Damen Group in the new build.  

“Building in Britain just makes sense”

Mick Whitley, Member of Parliament for Birkenhead

The Liverpool City Region (LCR) this morning confirmed that the new ferry would be a collaboration between Cammell Laird and the Damen Group, but the contract award is still subject to final negotiations. 

The Member of Parliament said that further clarity surrounding Damen’s involvement was needed and that “with Cammell Laird’s proud tradition of shipbuilding, Merseyside is well-placed to deliver the new Ferry to the very highest quality. From start to finish, this boat must be built in Birkenhead”.  

Alongside the trade unions Unite and GMB, Mick Whitley has been leading calls for the new ferry to be built in its entirety in Birkenhead but said that Damen’s involvement was an example of how local leaders’ “hands are tied” by onerous procurement laws imposed by Whitehall.  

New Mersey Ferry to be built at Cammell Laird shipyards.
The new ferry would be a collaboration between Cammell Laird and the Damen Group (Image: El Pollock / Cammell Laird Shipyard, Birkenhead, River Mersey / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Laws are in urgent need of an overhaul

In the UK, public bodies are governed by strict procurement rules which are supposed to ensure value for money, but which campaigners and trade unions blame for contracts being sent abroad. The Birkenhead MP said that the laws were in “desperate need of an overhaul” and claimed that they fail to adequately take into account the social value of building in Britain.  

Speaking to Chamber UK, Mick Whitley said: “building in Britain just makes sense: it creates jobs, drives economic growth, and ensures that public money gets spent in local economies – rather than hoarded away in offshore bank accounts. And it represents far better value for the taxpayer, with much of the total spend being returned to the public purse through direct and indirect taxation.” 

The Birkenhead MP said that workers at Cammell Laird deserved “far better” than having work on the new Mersey Ferry offshored abroad and called for local authorities and Metro Mayors to have greater autonomy in making procurement decisions to support local businesses and promote economic growth.  

The MP is now looking to secure a debate in Parliament calling for major reform of public procurement law. 

The Labour Party has committed to a policy of building in Britain by default if it wins the next General Election.

(Image: Wikicommons Rodhullandemu)

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