Aerospace Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Wales – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 21st March 2007.

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Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Labour, Alyn and Deeside 11:30 am, 21st March 2007

What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on the contribution of the aerospace industry to the economy of Wales.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

I have regular discussions with the First Minister concerning the Welsh economy, including the importance of the aerospace industry to it.

Photo of Mark Tami Mark Tami Labour, Alyn and Deeside

Last Friday, I attended a rally of about 1,000 Airbus workers from Broughton who were concerned about their future. I ask my right hon. Friend to press the Assembly Government and the Department of Trade and Industry to invest further in research and development in composite materials in order to secure the United Kingdom's position as world leader in wing-building technology.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

I will be happy to continue to work with my hon. Friend to achieve that objective. I applaud him for joining many of his constituents at that rally. I believe that the future of Airbus is secure. It is the jewel in the crown of the economy of that part of Wales and nearby across the border in England, and it will continue to get the support of both the Welsh Assembly Government and the Government at Westminster.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Welsh Affairs

On that point, does the Secretary of State agree that Airbus in Broughton has achieved its remarkable success through research and development investment in wing technology, and that that, together with a superb work force, has secured the contract for the A350 composite wing? Will he join me in backing Broughton's goal of winning the wing contract for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft, which would guarantee a world-class role for Wales in aerospace technology for decades to come?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

Indeed; I am happy to do so. I also emphasise that although provision has been made for job reductions at Airbus Broughton, none of them is on the engineering or production side; they have been made to enable Airbus to be much more competitive and to compete with Boeing, which I know it will be able to do successfully, partly for the reasons that the hon. Gentleman has given.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Secretary of State for Wales

We all agree that Airbus is a fine company, but can the Secretary of State help me on the following point? Because of direct political lobbying last month by German politicians, Wales lost out on, and Germany won, the wing-equipping work for the new A350 XWB. Can the Secretary of State reassure me and the workers at Airbus in north Wales that the reports that our Government dithered and made only weak representations at the last minute are untrue, and if they are untrue will he prove it by immediately publishing the details of the case that the Government made to Airbus and EADS—the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company—on behalf of Wales and the UK?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, The Secretary of State for Wales

That is just a load of rubbish. The hon. Lady clearly does not know what is going on at Airbus. The truth is that Airbus has extra work for its wings as a result of the deal negotiated. The management and unions there are extremely confident about its future, not least because during the past 10 years during which it has succeeded we have had the best economic climate for Airbus and Welsh business ever in our history—and that is because we have had the best Chancellor for British business and Welsh business ever in our history as well.