BAE Systems

Part of Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 12:50 pm, 24th November 2011

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Davis. As he said, for the past 14 years we have worked together to try to protect the interests of BAE workers at Brough. We have been joined in that by other Members who represent constituencies in Hull and the east riding, many of whom are here today, but he and I have been working together on it the longest.

Three consistent themes have run through all our discussions with BAE and its work force. First, there is a superb work force at Brough, as BAE has stated over and over again. Indeed, Allan Cook, who heads the Government’s talent retention unit and has a long history in the aerospace industry, having worked for Marconi, Cobham, BAE and Marshalls, told us a few days ago that he had never encountered such a talented group of workers in his entire engineering career. Secondly, there is the success of the Hawk. Since its first flight in 1976, 900 Hawk aircraft have been sold around the world. It is an iconic British product that is still in great demand, as I will show later. Thirdly, the work force have shown remarkable loyalty to, and respect for, the company. On the several occasions when the plant has been downsized, I have found the work force’s enormous respect for the company incredible.

Since the announcement on 27 September, only one of those three consistent themes has changed; I am afraid that the company has lost the respect of its work force. One long-serving employee who wrote to me—I am sure that colleagues have received similar letters—said, “Until this week I was proud to wear BAE Systems’ name but now find myself appalled by the actions of the senior management.” That kind of sentiment has been repeated by people who feel utterly betrayed by the announcement and by the way it was made.

BAE is seeking to end 100 years of aerospace manufacturing on the Humber not because of any problems with the staff or the product they produce, but because in difficult times it would rather impress shareholders with how tough it can be than impress the work force with how honourable it can be. The decision of the four Typhoon countries to slow deliveries of the aircraft was of course a blow, but the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company and Finmeccanica are slowing production of the Typhoon in Germany, Spain and Italy without losing any highly skilled manufacturing jobs.