Sir Keir Starmer has stressed the importance of the Port of Southampton during a visit to the city to speak to workers.

The Labour leader praised the port for its work during a visit to the docks on Monday.

Speaking to staff from Associated British Ports (ABP), he said the port is “absolutely vital” adding that he was impressed by the amount of trade passing through each day.

He went on to announce the party’s plan for a National Wealth Fund which he claimed would provide money to invest back into the port.

READ MORE: Photos: Sir Keir Starmer visits Port of Southampton ahead of election

He told ABP workers: “There’s huge ambition at this port - a great future actually for not only your jobs but future jobs to be right here.

“A port like this is absolutely vital. One of the things we’re announcing today is the National Wealth Fund.

“Other countries have this. They have a national wealth fund which means it is a government fund to get investment from the government but also to get private investment in.

“We want to put some of that money into our ports because ports like this and other ports around the country have huge potential, whether that’s for floating offshore wind in some of them, whether that’s for development of what you’re already doing and getting back some of the work that was going on here before we left the EU.

“All of that I think can be part of the future here. One of the things that has been impressed on us today is just how much trade comes through this port and how important it is to the country in terms of the work that’s going on.

“So we see this as really central. We’ve already earmarked money to put into our ports for the future.”

Sir Keir Starmer speaking to ABP workers at the Port of SouthamptonSir Keir Starmer speaking to ABP workers at the Port of Southampton (Image: Stuart Martin)

The Labour leader added that investment as part of the fund would come from both the government and private investors.

Shadow-chancellor, Rachel Reeves accompanied Sir Keir on his visit to the city.

She added that the National Wealth Fund would create up to 650,000 jobs across Britain including in “making our ports fit for the future”.

“That does mean ensuring that the planning system actually supports development and supports good jobs in places like Southampton.

“So we want to speed up the planning system. We know that we need more planners in planning authorities to actually crack on with the planning applications that are coming through the system.”

Labour’s plans come just months after Southampton City Council was given a £121.6m support package to help it balance its budget in future years.

The package gave permission for the authority to raise funds through the sale of assets or by taking out loans.

But Sir Keir Starmer told the Echo that Labour would support councils to help them provide services.

“What the Conservative government has done is not support local councils and many of them are struggling.

“We will have to address this. I do think there are a number of things we can do very quickly.

“One, and this is what a lot of council leaders are saying to me would make a difference which is a longer-term settlement over let's say three years so the money can be used much more effectively than it currently is.

“The government’s failure on no-fault evictions means that quite a lot of people who are evicted through no fault of their own end up having to rely on the council which puts an impact on the council.

“We can lighten that load and the work we want to do, the central mission to stabilize the economy will make a big difference to councils because inflation and interest rates make the life of councils trying to provide the services they need even more difficult.

”This is another example I think of the stark choice at this election which is turn our backs on the chaos the division the failure that’s got us to this place with our councils and turn the page and start to rebuild the country and our councils with Labour.”

The candidates for Southampton Itchen are:

  • James Edward Batho – Liberal Democrats
  • Declan Peter Clune – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • Alex Culley – Reform UK
  • Neil McKinnon Lyon Kelly – Green Party
  • Darren James Paffey – Labour Party
  • Sidney Yankson – The Conservative Party Candidate

The candidates for Southampton Test are: 

  • Katherine Jane Barbour – Green Party
  • Ben Burcombe-Filer – The Conservative Party Candidate
  • John Peter Edwards – Reform UK
  • Maggie Fricker – Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
  • Thomas Stephen Gravatt – Liberal Democrats
  • Satvir Kaur – Labour Party
  • Wajahat Shaukat – Workers Party

Responding to Sir Keri’s visit to Southampton today, Sidney Yankson, Conservative parliamentary candidate for Southampton Itchen, said: “I’m pleased that Keir Starmer and Labour have finally noticed the fantastic work that the Port of Southampton for our city’s – and indeed Britain’s – economy.

”I visited the Port earlier this year and committed to backing the Port to increase export opportunities, as well as supporting development of the waterfront.

“If I am fortunate enough to be elected, I will always champion Southampton’s vibrant economy.”