I start by congratulating Mr Davis and my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson on securing this important debate. I come to the debate late, not just because I have been called to speak late in the debate or because my alarm clock did not go off, but because my involvement with BAE goes back only to the last general election when I was elected to represent Kingston upon Hull East. I bow to the greater experience of right hon. and hon. Members across the House who have done huge amounts of work over the years in relation to the company.
I want to say something about the trade unions at BAE Systems in Brough. I have met them on numerous occasions over the past 18 months and they have always been very committed to the company. They are pragmatic, and are not the type of trade union that hon. Members on the Government Benches would normally like to describe. They are very sensible in what they do and, in my experience, have always been very supportive of the management. But something changed. I met trade union representatives in July. Some redundancies had been announced at Brough, but they thought that everything was going well. As far as they were concerned, nothing was on the horizon. That was also the attitude of the management at the time, but on
The work force are flexible and the trade unions are pragmatic, but from my meetings with the management I am convinced that they have already made up their minds. In my respectful submission, this so-called consultation period is a complete nonsense. They seem unlikely to change their view, and why would they given the yellow book situation that the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden alluded to? I am told that up to 80% of the redundancy bill will be paid for by the taxpayer, so when a trade union official said to me yesterday, “That is me paying for my own redundancy”, he was absolutely right.
The management have come out fighting. Chris Boardman claims that it is not entirely the company’s fault. He said that
“we are in a really difficult period and the recession and the action the current Government has taken has just exacerbated that”.
That might be right but the management have still acted particularly badly. The Government need to speak to them to see what we can do to save those jobs in my area.
I want to talk about the campaign being run by hon. Members and others. A few Saturdays ago, my hon. Friend Diana Johnson and I spent some time collecting signatures for a petition. Members across the House have worked hard on this together—it has been a case of non-partisan politics—which has been helpful. The
, too, has run a campaign to protect people at Brough, and should be commended on doing an extremely good job.