My Lords, I have a brief intervention to make that is rather similar to the line that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has taken. I thank him warmly for introducing this debate. Just sometimes you have to look on a national basis, beyond value for money for the taxpayer or the return on a commercial investment, and focus instead on equally important matters from a local viewpoint and the state of the economy in that particular region.
I live not far from Appledore, in a very poor part of the United Kingdom—north Devon—where agriculture and tourism are by far and away the most important activities and large or medium-sized industrial concerns are rare. But those who work in such companies are proud and loyal people whose families have very likely worked there for generations. Appledore is such a place. It has a long history of a proud and dedicated workforce, which is immensely loved and respected in the community for its many years of service to the Royal Navy. All of a sudden, although rumour had been around, news came that that great icon of heritage renown was to close and 200 mostly highly skilled employees were to go. For them, a terrifying vacuum suddenly evolved. If it had been anywhere else in the United Kingdom, it would have been different. Help would have been much closer at hand. Where is it for them now?
I simply say that Appledore, from now on, needs to be looked at both pragmatically and commercially, particularly bearing in mind the region and its financial circumstances. Furthermore, the Government need to understand that the West Country does not start and end at Bristol, as was—and still is—the common perception. Appledore is what it is and where it is, and it needs to be regarded as a special case, with a skilled and loyal workforce who could have still so much to offer.
I do not anticipate much encouragement from the Minister, but where principle and people’s livelihoods are at risk, you must do your utmost to persuade government and others that hope springs eternal.