BAE Systems

Part of Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:48 pm on 24th November 2011.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 1:48 pm, 24th November 2011

I, too, pay tribute to the work of Mr Davis and my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson, who have championed the issue of BAE Systems for a very long time in the Humber area. I pay tribute also to all the Humber MPs who have been involved since the announcement in September about what will happen in Brough, and who have been fighting quite an effective campaign. I pay tribute to the trade unions at Brough, which provide an excellent example of a modern trade union movement that is fighting its corner very hard indeed.

In an exchange that I had with the Minister on 14 November, I asked him what he was doing to support the people at Brough who had been told that their jobs were in jeopardy. Unfortunately, he gave me a response with which I was not very happy, basically saying that it was a matter for a private company, that it was up to the company to decide whether there would be redundancies and that it was not really anything to do with him. I noticed that today, he talked about his deep regret about BAE Systems’ announcement of the redundancies at Brough, but I say to him that it is not a factory making widgets. It is a defence manufacturer that is strategically important to this country, and in an area that is suffering disproportionately in the economic downturn.

It is unusual to debate a specific company on the Floor of the House—debates are not normally about one company. There are three issues, the first of which is BAE Systems in the context of the Humber area. I am the MP of the constituency that has the dubious characteristic of having the most people on jobseeker’s allowance seeking a position—58.9 people are after every vacancy in my constituency. Any job lost in the area is a real problem for local people. The work force in Brough are highly skilled and motivated. If they lose their jobs, and if they can get other jobs locally, it is likely that they will be paid less and will not enjoy the conditions that they have enjoyed in previous years. Brough is an excellent example of manufacturing, and it would be a loss to the Humber region if it goes.

I noted what the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden said about the salary of Ian King, which is more than £2.5 million this year. We should compare that with the average salary in my constituency: 40% of people in my constituency are on less than £14,000, which puts into context the importance of those jobs to Hull and the Humber region.

I hope that in the forthcoming White Paper, the Minister mentions not only the need to look at how we procure equipment, but the importance of maintaining manufacturing in the UK to its strategic capability.

Will the Minister undertake to press BAE on the following matters? First, why will the company not consider taking up the interim proposal of the unions and the executives to phase the movement of Hawk production to Warton over the next four years? That would protect an additional 300 jobs at Brough and save the company £22 million in production costs on the current contract. Secondly, how will the company manage the significant risk involved in moving production to Warton? The risk should not be underestimated—the move seriously compromises BAE’s ability to tender for aircraft contracts in future. Thirdly, will the Minister press BAE on why it will not consider allocating some of its significant naval works to the Brough site?

The Humber area is suffering with the economic downturn. My hon. Friend Alison Seabeck mentioned the flatlining economy, but the economy is particularly bad in the

Humber area—the region is suffering more than others in the country. The Minister and the Government need to consider very hard what else they can do through the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to ensure that alternative work is brought to the Brough site.

If BAE Systems goes ahead with its decision and makes people redundant, what legacy will it leave for the community, which has served it very well for many years? People have worked there for 20 or 30 years, and whole families work there. What will BAE Systems do? What will it leave behind for that community, which will suffer if the decision to make people redundant goes ahead?