Monday, 25 October 2010

East Lancashire's BAE Systems in 'mixed deal'

From the Lancashire Evening Post.

AROUND 2,000 jobs at BAE Systems in East Lancashire were yesterday effectively safeguarded – but hundreds more have been placed at risk.

The Government announced plans to order more Eurofighter Typhoons, all but securing the future of around 2,000 engineers who work on the project at the defence giant’s Samlesbury plant.

But 1,000 Samlesbury employees working on the rear fuselage of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter face uncertainty as ministers look set to slash the UK’s order of the aircraft.
On Friday I wrote to Liam Fox for urgent clarification of MoD orders for the JSF.

The announcement, made by David Cameron in Parliament as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), drew mixed reactions from MPs, business leaders and unions.

Little detail on aircraft numbers was offered by Mr Cameron or included in the SDSR document.

But a Ministry of Defence spokesman told the Lancashire Telegraph that there would be ‘no impact’ on Typhoon, with the UK set to take delivery of 96 more aircraft in tranches.

There had been speculation the Government would cut Typhoon orders in a money-saving drive.

But it is understood only a third of the original planned order of 138 F-35s will now be bought, reducing Samlesbury’s workload.

Graham Jones, Labour MP for Hyndburn and Haslingden, said: “We were expecting cuts and this SDSR is a terrible decision by the Government.

“This means people at Samlesbury will be made unemployed and it will destroy our industrial base.”

However, Nigel Evans, Conservative MP for Ribble Valley, said: “David Cameon talked very clearly about his faith in F-35 and Typhoon.

The Government wants value for money but we will still be spending about £17billion with BAE over the next four years.”

BAE union leaders were yesterday awaiting more detail on the review.

But Andy Wishart, Unite union chairman of profess-ional staff at Samlesbury, said: “We are extremely fearful about the impact of cutting the orders of F-35.

“There is no doubt jobs will be lost but we don’t yet know when that will be.”

Mike Damms of East Lancs Chamber of Commerce said it was ‘no surprise’ the Government had opted to back Typhoon adding: “It is a mixed deal for BAE.

"We will wait with trepidation to see what effect there is.”

Last night BAE and Lockheed Martin, F-35’s primary contractor, would not say whether the Government’s reduction in orders would mean Samlesbury has less work on the expected 3,000 orders from other nations.

BAE said: “We will now study the review and the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review and will make a further announcement alongside the release of our Interim Management Statement on Thursday, October 21.”

Yesterday’s announcement that the Government is to cancel the planned Nimrod spy plane affects around 400 staff at BAE’s Warton plant.

Meanwhile, the retirement of the Harrier jump jet will also affect maintenance contract workers at Warton.