It is certainly the consequence of deliberate decisions. Whether the management intended this outcome at the beginning, or whether it is sheer crass misjudgment, I will leave the House to judge. What I am trying to do is lay out the facts as starkly as I can, because it was long ago time to open up the process to public scrutiny.
That brings me to the decision today. The company is in the middle of a 90-day consultation period. From the start, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle and I, and a number of colleagues—probably every Member of Parliament involved in the process—told the company that we would hold it to its legal responsibilities on a 90-day process. Those legal responsibilities involve being transparent and open, and looking in good faith at all proposals put to it. I repeat that: looking in good faith at all proposals put to it. Unfortunately I have to tell the House that, based on the company’s behaviour to date, it seems to me entirely possible that it has broken its legal responsibilities. It has not looked in good faith at all the options available to it, but I will leave it to my right hon. Friend—I beg his pardon, the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle; he is my friend—to say more on that later.
I certainly expect the company to demonstrate why it turned down the options that it was looking at before it made the decision. As far as I can see, it has not even done that. Secondly, I expect it to give proper consideration to the plan drawn up by its management to preserve employment at Brough in my constituency, albeit at lower levels. Again, I think that the right hon. Gentleman will touch on that point.
The work force at Hull are the best, in terms of attitude, productivity and skill, I saw in my 20 years in business before I came to the House, and BAE Systems senior management agree. The work force’s attitude is positive, their productivity is high, and the right hon. Gentleman and I have always been told that they are competitive on cost and quality. They deserve a proper chance.
If the company does a proper, open-minded review, and the figures do not add up—I accept that is possible—its responsibilities do not end there. We have been fortunate: the Civitas think-tank has invested £50,000 in looking at the Brough site to see what it can be used for, how the skills can be deployed, and what we can do without destroying the skills base. For that, I thank it warmly. The chairman of the Government’s skill retention taskforce came to see us yesterday, and it is at work, looking for alternatives. The Government acted within two weeks and put in place two enterprise zones, one on each side of the Pennines, to help us in all this, but if we cannot come up with an alternative, we will again lose a critical mass of skilled workers that will not be replaced once it is dissipated. That is the nub of the matter.
The job losses in Brough and on the other side of the Pennines are, to a large extent, a direct consequence of the company’s strategy over the years. The company’s profits come, to a very large extent, from taxpayer support.