Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to take part in the debate. I begin by congratulating the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Stephen Williams) on his maiden speech, and all the other Members who have made their maiden speech today. I should like to make special mention of my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy), who has tirelessly served the people of Northern Ireland and Wales for so long.
Over the past week we have been debating the Government's programme for the forthcoming year and a half. We face many challenges, but we have built a sound base and delivered the longest period of economic growth in modern history. To maintain that success, we need successful industries and businesses generating income and jobs and making sure that Britain moves forward in the face of tough international competition.
Airbus UK is at the forefront of meeting that challenge. The hon. Member for Bristol, West mentioned Airbus, and it is clearly important in his area as well. It shows that European co-operation can deliver a world-beating company. I am delighted that the Prime Minister and the Chancellor found time to visit Airbus UK's Broughton site during the election campaign and to meet some of the company's numerous apprentices. Airbus UK provides tangible evidence of what can be achieved when we invest for the future. The company represents one of the UK's most knowledge-intensive industries, requiring a highly skilled work force applying the latest technologies and the use of high precision, lean manufacturing processes. Working in partnership with its trade unions, it is a model that many other industries could follow.
However, just as no country, not even the most successful, can take its prosperity for granted, nor can any company. Just as there is a need for the Government
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to pursue policies that entrench stability and promote long-term growth, so, too, companies must adapt and innovate to secure the very same long-term growth and success.
Following the successful first flight of the A380, attention is now focused on the A350, the new long-range aircraftthe hub-to-point aircraft, as it is known. That market is expected to grow by 35 per cent. over the next 20 years, and the A350 would provide a competitive Airbus product to meet that need.
For Airbus UK, the A350 poses both opportunity and threat. The company, which employs 13,000 people and supports an estimated 135,000 UK jobs, plays a leading role globally in wing design, technology and manufacturing. Airbus UK and its supply chain undertake the design and production of the wing, landing gear and fuel systems integration. However, that leadership is based on a metallic wing solution, while the A350 marks the beginning of the next era in wing technology, which is the large-scale use of composites.
The future for Airbus overall is composites. However, because many composites have already been used in current products, namely the A380 and the planned A400M, the military transport aircraft, composite design and technology expertise has been built up over the years in many Airbus sites, namely those in Germany and Spain. While the UK has developed experience in this technology, the A350 is the first Airbus civil product with the wing primary structure made largely from composite. Airbus is now considering investments for this product and the decisions on work-sharing activities, and it is important that those decisions be taken in the near future.
Success for the UK in winning the A350 would mean the creation of almost 11,000 jobs in the aerospace sector and a further 21,600 jobs being supported in the wider economy through induced employment. Those will be long-term jobs and many of them will be highly skilled. It is well known that other Airbus countries, namely Germany and Spain, are keen to see those high-value jobs brought to their sites. Whoever secures the work on the A350 will be much better placed for the future and the next generation of aircraft, as the decision on the A350 will have a significant bearing on where that work and investment will go.
In order for Airbus UK to win this vital wing business, considerable investment in new engineering and manufacturing facilities and work force training in composite processes is needed. Airbus has therefore applied to the Government for repayable launch investment for the A350. As Airbus is a successful company, one may ask why the British taxpayer should stump up repayable launch aid for it. But why should we not invest in success? In the past Governments of all political colours have tended to respond only to crisis and collapse, often with little long-term gain. For aircraft manufacturers, development costs in the industry are often greater than the total share capital of the company developing a new aircraft, while the pay-back period for these costs can be over a 15 to 20-year cycle. The financial markets do not find that particularly attractive, so Government commitment via repayable launch investment is a key method of ensuring market
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confidence. As a public-private partnership, the process works very well. Without it the UK will lose out to other European countries that already have competence in the area.
Quite apart from all those arguments, repayable launch investment is a sensible decision for the British taxpayer because it is repayable. For example, the Government supplied £250 million in repayable launch investment towards the A320. Repayments from Airbus UK to the Treasury now total more than twice that amount and continue to grow with each aircraft, with royalties being paid.
If we mean what we say about wanting to build a true partnership with industry, to invest in science and skills, to develop high-tech modern manufacturing and to build prosperity for Britain in a global economy, we must not, at this crucial moment, turn our backs on the potential of Airbus UK. Nor should we be intimidated by the loud, self-serving voices of some of our American cousins, whose cries of principled objection to repayable launch investments surface only in the wake of Boeing's lost market share. While we would all like the disagreement between the United States and the European Union to be concluded, that conclusion must reflect the fact that although Airbus receives direct but repayable loans from EU member countries, Boeing receives huge subsidies, be they in the form of NASA or Department of Defence contracts, or even of tax breaks.
Europe has been accustomed over the years to American allegations of unfair subsidies to Airbus. US hostility tends to intensify when Airbus launches a new plane or opens up a significant lead in the marketplace. That Boeing is comfortable with direct subsidy for aircraft manufacture is evident from the fact that its strategic partners in Japan are funding a share of the development of the 7E7 Dreamliner. Japanese partners are to receive repayable grants and, in addition, other low-interest repayable loans will come from the Development Bank of Japan. They will be worth almost $1 billion in total. Boeing's Japanese partners on the 7E7 will receive more than $1.4 billion in subsidy, and some of that will not even be repayable. That demonstrates that the direct support which Boeing and the US Government believe is completely unjustified when adopted in Europe is acceptable if granted to a partner working on the Boeing programme.
Airbus UK's application for repayable launch investment for the A350 represents an opportunity for the Government to work in partnership with industry, to invest in high-skilled jobs and to prepare and equip our nation for the challenges ahead. It is an opportunity to build our modern manufacturing strength and to ensure British leadership in science, enterprise, education and trade. Let us not pass up that prospect for long-term growth and prosperity, and let us ensure that our aerospace industry leads the world.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP):
I congratulate all those who have made their maiden speeches during the debate on the Gracious Speech. I came to the House in 1983, representing the constituency of Mid-Ulster. I was here until 1997, when that constituency was ravaged by boundary changes and I was therefore no longer its Member of Parliament.
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I did, however, return in 2000 at a by-election, representing the new constituency of South Antrim, only to be defeated in the 2001 election some eight months later.
Of course, patience is a virtue, and they say that all good things come to those who wait. I was therefore willing, because of my conviction to represent the people of Northern Ireland and the constituency of South Antrim, to take up that challenge again. Although I was not the constituency's Member of Parliament, I continued to represent, and to be active in, South Antrim. Such activity was rewarded by its people, and I am greatly honoured to return to the House. I do so with fresh vigour and excitement, and I am willing to help to meet many of the challenges that face the people of Northern Ireland in general, and of South Antrim in particular.
I have one regret and sorrow, which is that my mother did not live to see this day as she passed away at the election's commencement. However, it is an honour to be here and to speak for the good people of South Antrim in this honourable House.
I listened with care to the Chancellor's speech. He boasted about the UK's economy and said that it was enjoying stability while countries such as America, Japan and Germany were passing through, or had passed through, recession. He said that we have the fastest growing economy andas any Government would desire to dohe painted a picture in which everything seems to be rosy in the garden.
I need to remind this Government that we must maintain some humility. The attainment of our successes is due not only to ourselves, but to the foundation laid by others and to the hard work that the people of the United Kingdom have put in. In their third term, the Government face the danger of complacency. The speeches praising the Chancellor and the excellence of the present moment have been rather smug. Downturns may occur as well as upturns, so society must maintain a degree of humility. We appreciate the prosperity that we are enjoying, but it involves not only the Government, but the people of the United Kingdom, and we should praise everyone who has played a part in that success.
We must acknowledge that the present situation masks many problems. South Antrim is the most beautiful part of the country. All the new Members say that their constituencies are the most beautiful, and they are right to think it, but I say that South Antrim is the best of all. Although my constituency is affluent and prosperous, many citizens are not enjoying that prosperity, and we must acknowledge such deprivation. Many large estates in my constituency, whether they are in the Antrim borough council area or the Newtownabbey borough council area, do not enjoy the same blessings and prosperity as other areas, and many of the people who live there are trapped within the benefits system.
Regeneration is urgently needed in Antrim and Ballyclare. Many such issues are not the sole responsibility of the Government, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or Northern Ireland Ministers, but we need Government help to tackle them and to ensure that we bring prosperity to the whole of the United Kingdom.
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During the election, I listened to the debate between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others in which the Government described the prosperity of the UK economy. In Northern Ireland, the debate was different. On education, for example, the education boards are continually being told to cut back. When the Government were discussing how many new schools to build, head teachers were asking me about the teachers who will teach in those schools, the classroom assistants who are currently being made redundant and the removal of school patrol men and women, who allow children to be safe when they go in and out of school. Today, the Chancellor discussed the new pre-schools and after-schools, but many such schools already exist in Northern Ireland, and they are closing because of a lack of funding, so we must be realistic.
Our planning service is currently in chaos. It seems to be unable to issue planning decisions or even to make planning decisions. It is, however, glad to issue some decisions quicklyfor example, the approval of the super dump at Cottonmount or the decision on the asbestos site at Crumlin, which was approved by the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the hon. Member for Basildon (Angela E Smith), in one of her last decisions before the election and against the will of the people.
The agricultural industry faces crisis, but the Chancellor did not paint such a picture in today's economic statement. It faces many challenges such as the nitrates directive and the phosphates directive, which come from Europe. Legislation is being heaped on an industry that has faced so many crises that it cannot cope with the challenges that it faces.
I heard the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) speak today. When he was Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he listened very carefully, and I appreciated the grace with which he received Members of Parliament and Assembly Members. I thank him for his service to Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist party has the mandate of the people. We are the only party to return from the general election with an 80 per cent. increase in its MPs, and I am delighted to be part of the team.
It is easy for other Members to tell us about how Northern Ireland is moving on, but if one reads the Independent Monitoring Commission report, one will find that the terrorists are still there at this very moment. The Provisional IRA is recruiting, training and re-arming. The terrorists have not gone away, and they threaten the whole system of democracy of this United Kingdom, particularly in Northern Ireland.
There is no place for terrorists in government in Northern Ireland. The Government had better realise that the day of pushover Unionism is finished and that Northern Ireland has a Unionism that is vibrant, confident, and no longer on its knees. It is standing tall and facing all the challenges. My party will accept the challenges that we face and the responsibility that is laid upon our shoulders as the leaders of Unionism. Much of my party's success is due to the stamina, courage and diligence of its leader and deputy leader, even in days of
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hardship when they were being maligned by so many on the political scene. They stood for the principles of traditional Unionist values, and we are proud that we are able to join as a united team here to further the cause of the people of Northern Ireland.
I am honoured to represent the people of South Antrim. I long for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland, but I will make it abundantly clear that there is no room for terrorists at the centre of Government. The day that we want to see is one on which peace and democracy is restored to this United Kingdom, and that will not happen with terrorists at the very heart of our Government. I urge the Government to accept the challenge of telling the terrorists that they are not needed or wanted, and must be defeated instead of crawled to.