The recently let service contract at RAF Valley preserves the defence of the United Kingdom, improves value for money for the taxpayer and provides local employment opportunities. That represents a good outcome.
Will the Minister reflect that that is not the view of RAF personnel who live at RAF Valley, or of RAF personnel throughout the United Kingdom? They consider that it is not in the best interests of our defence that we should privatise the repair and maintenance of Hawk and other essential defence aircraft to organisations that have not trained people in these skills, and that will not train them in future. Is it not time that the Government reflected that that short-termism is not in the interests of that part of Wales in terms of cutting essential public expenditure there, and is undermining the defence of the United Kingdom?
About 200 existing civilian employees will transfer to the new contractor, retaining their current terms and conditions under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, and about 400 new civilian jobs will be created.
I think that everyone in the House acknowledges that the Conservative party does not control many local authorities in Wales, but the leader of Anglesey county council greeted the move as
very good news. We are very pleased that the company has won this contract. It is the proof of partnership",
and the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones), who represents the area, said:
This announcement could be a tremendous boost to local employment".
I therefore believe that the hon. Gentleman's is an isolated view.
I, too, welcome the Minister to his new position. Is he aware that, last week, the campaign group that was set up to defend jobs at Valley had its first meeting with BRAMA—the company that secured the contract for aircraft maintenance at Valley? Is he aware of the assurance given by the Secretary of State for Wales—that, when a training programme is agreed between the company and the training agencies, money will be available for that programme? Will he now give me an assurance that, when the company and the agencies have finally agreed on that training programme, he will agree to meet a deputation from the island to consider funding?
Yes, I am aware of the commitment that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State gave. That commitment has been welcomed locally. As to the hon. Gentleman's other points, let me make it clear that the Welsh Office has always been prepared to speak to anyone. Unfortunately, Welsh local authorities do not want to speak to the Welsh Office.