BAE Systems

Part of Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 1:53 pm on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of Lorely Burt Lorely Burt Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party 1:53 pm, 24th November 2011

I shall make a brief contribution on behalf of my Liberal Democrat Back-Bench colleagues. This has been an excellent debate. It is a bit disappointing that the Opposition Front Bencher soured it by making political comments, but there we are.

The UK has the largest aerospace sector in Europe and is second only to the USA globally. Aerospace is very much the jewel in the crown. It enjoys 5% growth year on year and in 2011 turnover was £2 billion. The fact that the UK has its own defence company is very important strategically.

Mr Davis said that manufacturing is declining, but it is not declining any more. In fact, it is up 2% as a percentage of gross domestic product, and by 10% in total.

The closure of Brough and the other job losses that have been announced are a tragedy for every single family, but I understand that Brough has not had an order for the Hawk fighter for more than four years. That is a real challenge. I implore the Minister to do all he can to effect the smoothing of any job losses and to encourage the adoption of any additional services. In fact, if GKN, Airbus and Rolls-Royce can make money out of commercial aircraft, I do not understand why BAE Systems does not look at that. There is obviously money to be made.

On job losses, Mark Hendrick made the point that for every job lost directly from BAE Systems, about four are lost from the supply chain. The Government have announced the two enterprise zones, and it is important that we do not lose those skills—not just the jobs at BAE Systems directly, but the jobs in the supply chain.

I have not been intimately involved in the story of BAE Systems, unlike right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken, but there seems to be a case to answer, particularly, as the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden said, for the potential misuse of the intentions of the yellow book. I welcome the Minister’s announcement that that will be reviewed, after a long period. The last thing we should be doing as a Government is allowing companies to make commercial benefit from the sad situation of job losses.

I should like to compare what is happening at BAE Systems with what happened at a company that I know rather more about from my constituency: Jaguar Land

Rover. Two years ago, we were not sure whether we would lose the site in Solihull, but the company, with its determined work force, worked out a strategy. It worked well with the unions, as we have heard, and JLR is now in the good times. The announcement of 800 jobs at i54 in Wolverhampton was made just a few weeks ago, and last week another 1,000 jobs in Solihull were announced. There are new markets, opportunities and new products. That is what brought that high-level manufacturing company back into good times.

I appreciate that there are defence cuts and that BAE Systems must cut its cloth accordingly, but I hope our Minister can work with all the constituency MPs from both sides of the House to get a better outcome than the very sad one that we seem to be faced with at the moment.