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Mr. Viggers: The hon. Gentleman knows that I am with him in spirit because St. Athan in his constituency carries out parallel work to Fleetlands in my constituency, which undertakes the overhaul of rotary wing aircraft. Does he agree that the Government's proposal flies in the face of most logic? If one can take manufacturing and overhaul facilities away from the uniformed armed forces, one can reduce costs and increase efficiency.

Mr. Smith: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. If one does that, one can enhance front-line capability at the same time.

It was right to carry out a review of logistics. An end-to-end review of logistics in land and air was carried out in 2002–03, which was precisely when the Defence Committee suggested that serious problems were occurring. I recommend that hon. Members read the review. Its recommendations were completely flawed because they ignored the strategic role that was created for DARA as little as three years ago by the Government. Secondly, and crucially, a proper distinction was not drawn between the productivity, output and potential of servicemen and women operating in a factory environment under a military code and Queen's regulations, and those of civilians
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working in a factory in a commercial environment. They were treated as the same, but that beggars belief because it goes completely against common sense.

I am mindful of what the hon. Member for Gosport said about the dangers of management speak because earlier this year, the Minister of State rolled forward the maintenance of the Harrier GR9 to Marham. We were told that that happened because service personnel had developed a lean technology and a pulse line and that they could thus compete with the private sector; what utter nonsense. They are not there to compete with the private sector, but to prepare for and fight wars. They are the best in the world at doing that, so for goodness' sake, let them get on with that and stop pretending that they are businesses and that they should be running factories, precisely the nonsense that is proposed.

The move to Marham was not a success. The so-called lean machine has been fraught with problems. The Minister has asked me on several occasions to list some of the problems and provide him with the information, but I do not wish to do that in the House today. I have a long list of aircraft that have experienced difficulties in recent months, but I shall put only one example on record: Zulu Delta 402. Will the Minister seek an independent assessment of what went wrong with the aircraft and why it took 219 days to turn it around, rather than the 60 that it should have taken? The reason for that is obvious. Those people are loyal servicemen and women who joined the Royal Air Force, as I did many years ago, to serve their country, not to work in a factory or to behave as commercial civilian factory workers.

The decision is a disaster for the military in terms of its capability and for the British taxpayer, because we will pay through the nose for it. When we are dependent on that monopoly supplier, there will be no way out. The supplier will be able to ask for blank cheques. It was little wonder that the supplier was pleased when I recently spoke to it about the prospects of the new partnership and new relationship. There is still time to do something about that, however.

If the decision were right for our military and the taxpayer, I would go to my constituents, who are very experienced—in the Minister's words, uttered within the past 12 months, they are world-beaters—in defence aviation repair, and say that in the interests of the defence of this country we have to bite the bullet, take the tough decision and find ways to minimise the impact, but that is not the case. The decision is bad for the military, the taxpayer and the aviation industry in south Wales. It is wrong in principle and wrong in practice.

I ask my right hon. Friend to reconsider the decision. The end-to-end review was flawed. It took place within months of the creation of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency. The RAF was not happy about the agency in the first place and, surprise, surprise, the review's recommendation is to give the work back to the RAF. If he cannot see that, it is a matter for concern, which is why I am delighted that the Defence Committee will investigate the issue shortly.

Please do not get this decision wrong. It is not a question of jobs in my constituency. It is not even a question of the damaging effect that it will have on the south Wales economy. It is a question of the future capability of the British Royal Air Force. We cannot place that at risk.
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4.12 pm

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): In following the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith), may I say that I am glad that he implicitly acknowledged the excellent work in the private sector by the many thousands of my constituents at BAE Systems Warton, who produced the Tornado mid-life update and the GR4 model as a result of that? I have noted his comments, which will not be lost on those aerospace workers.

I want to pick up a theme of the hon. Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Crausby), who made a perceptive and interesting speech, touching on many of the challenges that lie ahead in securing the future for Britain's high-technology defence industries, particularly in the aerospace sector. The House knows that the home of BAE Systems is in my constituency, and it is to that that I want specifically to address my remarks.

Although I found much in the Minister of State's speech that was interesting, I was disappointed with the number of omissions relating to specific projects. I appreciate that he cannot cover everything, but we are embarking on taking our place in the construction of the joint strike fighter project. It is the world's biggest military aerospace project. Some 230 of our personnel are in Dallas Fort Worth. I think that I can claim to be the first British politician to visit that plant, to have a presentation on the JSF, to see the future for myself and to talk to some of our excellent people who are contributing to that project. However, the Minister made no specific detailed mention of the future of that project and the implications of that for Britain's aerospace industry.

On the future offensive air system—the cradle of the development of the new technologies that will equip our industry for the future—the Minister told me in a written answer that since 1999 we have spent £84 million on that project, subsumed as it is into the European technology acquisition programme. But there was no mention in his speech of what the project is currently about, what technologies are involved and when we can expect some public exposure of the projects that will arise from it. In the parliamentary question I asked for a statement on the future offensive air systems project, including the project's objectives. We got two lines on arguably the most important programme that   will determine our future aerospace industry technologies.

The debate has touched briefly on the Eurofighter Typhoon. I take the opportunity to put on record my personal appreciation for the courtesy and kindness that the Minister for Defence Procurement, the noble Lord Bach has shown in personal discussion and correspondence in response to the many letters of representation that I have sent on the subject of tranche 2. The discussions between the company and the Ministry of Defence about the difficulties of the cost of the second tranche and the implications for the cost structure of tranche 1 appear to have been successfully concluded. May we please have a straight answer to the question as to when an announcement will be made? This has been run out for far too long. It is nearly a year since those of us with an interest started asking when the matter would be sorted.
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I say this not for any kind of political gain. I recently had a constituency advice bureau in BAE Systems and, one after another, members of the work force came to me and said, "Mr. Jack, when is this going to be settled? When will we know that we have some future for our work at Warton and Samlesbury?" I acknowledge that the Minister must have a meeting with the other three partner countries before the matter can be finally decided, but he owes it to those workers to give them an early Christmas present and put the future of tranche 2 once and for all beyond doubt.

The language on Eurofighter Typhoon has become noticeably more positive from the Secretary of State and all Ministers and from the Chief of the Air Staff. I welcome that endorsement. It will certainly help prospects for export orders in the discussions that are going on with the Greeks and the Malays, for example, and perhaps even future orders for Saudi. More confidence among export customers would be welcome, but the biggest vote of confidence would be the signing of tranche 2. Perhaps in his winding-up speech the Minister will put us all out of our—I will not say misery, but anticipation.

Mr. Ingram indicated dissent.

Mr. Jack: The Minister says no, and that will be noted. Many thousands of workers would have liked an answer, which they will not receive tonight.

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