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

That is true, and I will turn to civil aerospace in a moment, but all the experts in the area, including the unions handling the situation, expect that from 2016 there will be an increase, particularly in Hawk orders. We are looking at the home of Hawk in Brough, and it is going through a difficult time, but most expect that, if we can get to 2016 and through the next difficult period in this country and throughout the world, there will be significant opportunities in military engineering.

The executive group at Brough has put forward a proposal to safeguard what is probably the Saudi Arabia contract, to ensure that there are no dangers to it and, therefore, to save about one third of the work force until 2016. There is a desperate shortage of necessary skills to meet booming demand in the commercial aerospace sector by companies such as Rolls-Royce and EADS, so the retention of some Hawk work should be combined with facilitating and incentivising the transfer of packages of commercial aerospace work to Brough. It is an attractive site, with exceptional access by air, sea and land. It has the machinery, the layout and the work force that commercial aerospace companies need, and it can be utilised without causing job cuts elsewhere.

It is time for fresh thinking. As the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden has pointed out, we are in the crazy position of using taxpayers’ money to destroy skilled jobs in an economy that is desperate for high-value manufacturing to expand. It is time for an ethical and, even, patriotic approach by big profitable international companies, such as BAE, to the problems that this country faces. The Government have an important role to play in such a strategy, but the prime responsibility rests with the company.

I have a final quotation from Andrew Witty. He says:

“I…believe one of the reasons we have seen an erosion of trust…in big companies is they’ve allowed themselves to be seen as detached from society…They’ve allowed it to be perceived that it’s all about money.”

BAE needs to avoid being a “mid-Atlantic floating entity” and to demonstrate that it is a British company that cares about British society and British jobs. The work force at Brough have been loyal to BAE in difficult times. BAE needs to reciprocate that loyalty now.