BAE Systems

Part of Backbench Business — [Un-allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 2:19 pm on 24th November 2011.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:19 pm, 24th November 2011

It is good to follow Andrew Percy. I shall take up some of the points about which he spoke so well. We have also listened to powerful speeches from Mr Davis and my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson. I hope that the company will listen to them, make this consultation genuine and rethink its approach to the jobs currently set to go.

It is hard to underestimate the appalling hardship that looms for these communities. While the Astute programme in Barrow shipyard is maintaining the order book there, we remember and still feel the scar of the 10,000 jobs lost there in the early ’90s and the tale of long-term benefit dependency, which still remains with us to an extent to this day. It is not only those communities that feel the blow, as this is a hit on the defence industry across the north where synergies between the aerospace and shipbuilding industry jointly support supply chain jobs, which many people will be worried about if these job cuts go ahead.

Most of all, of course, this affects individuals. When I attended BAE’s apprenticeships awards earlier this month, I saw brilliant talent there—people who had been employed in engineering manufacturing kit to help injured troops returning from the front line who were based at the Queen Elizabeth military hospital in Birmingham. The teams from the affected sites were not clear about what their future would be or whether they would be able to remain.

Previous speakers have highlighted the company’s responsibility to rethink. I want to stress the importance of the questions facing this and future Governments about their approach to the defence industry and to maintaining our defence industrial base. In an earlier intervention, Mr Wallace criticised aspects of the previous Government’s defence industrial strategy as Stalinist. The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden pointed to ways in which companies are still able to offshore, despite agreements put in place in certain areas. It is a great worry that current Ministers seem reluctant to take responsibility for helping to shape an overall strategy for industrial capacity.