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Mr. Heald: I thank the Minister for her generous comments. It is true that the amendments relate to a theme that we have pursued throughout our consideration of the Bill. That began with, in effect, its first outing, which was Second Reading in this place. We are pleased with the progress that has been made. We had hoped originally for a uniform commissioner, but we are satisfied with the Minister's explanations. We are getting what amounts to a unified secretariat. There has been much streamlining, and that is most welcome.

We always imagined that there would have to be separate arrangements for Northern Ireland. We do not really count that commissioner, if the hon. Lady will accept that. We think that good progress has been made and we are pleased with the amendments.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Remaining Lords amendments agreed to.


Education Funding (Cambridgeshire)

9.55 pm

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of 1,300 constituents in Cambridgeshire. The petition was organised by the Fair Funding group, which has supported the campaign to get a fairer settlement for education funding for Cambridgeshire.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 1211

Broadcasting Licences (Religious Bodies)

9.56 pm

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury): I wish to present a petition signed by more than 2,000 people, the great majority of whom are constituents of mine in Aylesbury and the surrounding area. The petition calls on the Government to introduce legislation to amend the law, which at present discriminates against the ownership of broadcasting licences by religious bodies.

The petition states:

I simply add that the petitioners have my full support.

To lie upon the Table.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 1212

BAE (Redundancies)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Dowd.]

9.58 pm

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley): I am pleased that we have time to discuss the important matter of people being made redundant at British Aerospace sites throughout the country. We also have the opportunity to consider what is going on in BAE, as we hear many rumours. The title of the debate is slightly misleading. The purpose of the debate is to discuss the future of employees at BAE Systems in the light of recent redundancies.

I warmly welcome the Government's announcement this week of support for BAE with the launch aid for the A3XX, the choice of A400M heavy lift aircraft and the accompanying contracts. Air France and Emirates Airlines have also supported the A3XX, and we know that there are another nine orders on the books. There are now 17 firm orders for A3XX. We can thank the Government for that. I am sorry that no Opposition Members are present for the debate. The Opposition seem to have been using the press to suggest that the Government are at fault and that the Labour party takes no interest in the industry. I want to put the record straight. The Labour party is interested in these matters, and the Government are fully committed to aerospace and will continue to support it in the future. I am grateful for the Meteor and Eurofighter projects, which are very important.

It being Ten o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Dowd.]

Mr. Hoyle: The Government deserve congratulation for their support of the contracts given for the A3XX, the A400M heavy-lift aircraft, and the Eurofighter. The Meteor project safeguarded 1,200 jobs. When it is up and running, the A400M project will involve 10,000 jobs, 3,400 of them at BAE Systems. A total of 22,000 jobs are involved in the A3XX project, 8,000 of them at BAE Systems. These are firm orders and firm contracts for the future. More orders are expected, and that is good news. The A3XX will be a super aircraft, and everyone involved deserves our congratulations.

I want to discuss aerospace manufacturing sites in the north-west. The plant at Broughton will make the wings for the A3XX. The Lostock facility will have the Meteor project. The sites at Warton and Salmesbury will also benefit from the orders, as will the Royal Ordnance facility at Chorley.

It is therefore disappointing to learn that 3,800 people--or 3.5 per cent. of the work force--will be made redundant. A total of 750 jobs will go at Warton and Salmesbury. Redundancies will also occur in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Minister. That is not good news. Many people in Chorley and South Ribble will suffer from the shake-out that is happening in the aerospace industry, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Borrow) and I will be involved with them.

A strong rumour among those in the industry who lobbied Parliament recently was that work would be contracted out abroad, to firms in Poland and elsewhere.

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Is that true? I understand that the amount of work involved would be about 1.5 per cent. of the total, but I hope that my hon. Friend will confirm that. Orders arising out of the work sent to Poland could benefit the north-west, but the transfer of work could be a problem, and it needs to be addressed. Contracting out work abroad is an attempt to reduce production costs. I understand the need for that, but British jobs are important to the House and should not be put at risk.

Government announcements earlier this year were regarded as a boost for British manufacturing, and as an investment in the future of high-quality, well paid jobs. They were welcomed for those reasons. However, those announcements are undermined by the decision taken by BAE Systems, which establishes the worry that more work may be sent out of the UK.

It is clear from my meetings with BAE employees from Salmesbury and Warton that there are growing anxieties among workers about the future of their jobs and of aerospace manufacturing in the north-west. Hundreds of companies in the area contribute to the supply chain, so it is important to consider the future of the jobs provided by the industry.

I am worried about second and third-tier work being contracted overseas which ought to go to UK companies. There is a danger that other parts of Europe will benefit from the money that the Government have made available for launch aid. The problem is not so great with first-tier contracts, but British companies are not getting their fair share of second and third-tier work. The money being used comes from British taxpayers, and British companies should be given the best opportunity to supply work for the industry. Thousands of jobs are at risk in second, third and even fourth-tier industries.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): My hon. Friend makes a powerful argument about the impact of possible redundancies on the north-west. Does he accept that Members representing constituencies across the Fylde, including myself, my hon. Friends the Members for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) and for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) and the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) have constituents who must have thought that their jobs were secure and that things would go very well, given the amount of support given to the industry by the Government? They are consequently in a state of shock about what BAE Systems is presenting to them.

Mr. Hoyle: Absolutely. There is great shock and concern about British Aerospace and BAE Systems, which we want to highlight tonight. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) has made that point, because there is not a constituency in the north-west that will not be touched by what is happening.

We want to call on the Government to seek assurances from BAE Systems that the investment that has been put in the United Kingdom aerospace industry will benefit the entire United Kingdom. We must look after UK manufacturing. Small and medium-sized enterprises are at risk. We must ensure that launch aid money from British taxpayers will support small and medium-sized businesses as well as BAE Systems. We must get that message across loud and clear. We are concerned about the supply chain as well as BAE Systems.

26 Jul 2000 : Column 1214

Although I appreciate that we have to compete and keep costs to a minimum, work should not be subcontracted out to the extent claimed. The mass redundancies that have taken place threaten the future of UK aerospace plants. There are no two ways about that--there is a great danger of huge numbers of people disappearing overnight because of redundancies.

I would like the Department for Education and Employment, the trade unions and BAE Systems to help redundant workers find alternative employment. Although redundancies are taking place within BAE Systems, there are also many vacancies. We must match the skills to the vacancies. The skills of the people who have been made redundant should be honed. Those people should be retrained so that they can fill the vacancies. That makes a lot of sense. It will cost money, but it is money that should be spent, and we should look forward to spending it. I believe that the Government, as well as BAE Systems, can match those vacancies by working with the people who have been made redundant. It is not impossible. In that way, rather than our seeing large numbers of redundancies, people could move into different jobs in this huge company. It is important to get them round the table.

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