Memorandum from Prospect
1. I am writing on behalf of the Trade Union
Prospect which represents scientist and professional staff in
the former Royal Ordnance Factories (ROF's) now owned by Bae Systems.
2. We are in favour of the Government having
a coherent Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) and we support the
overall policy aims of the DIS. We have particular concern about
the ability of the MoD to obtain security for supply, in particular
for small arms ammunition and high explosive, particularly the
strategically imported warhead initiator TATB if Bae Systems planned
closure of the ROF at Chorley (small arms) and Bridgwater (high
explosives) goes ahead.
3. We believe that the decisions to close
the two factories were made before any discussion about the DIS
and its potential impacts had taken place and as such the Committee
should now review the decisions and the future of the whole former
ROF business in the light of your deliberations on the DIS.
Our comments are set out below:
BRIDGEWATER (a) Bridgewater
is the only site manufacturing military explosives in the UK.
(b) With closure Britain will lose all national
capability for the production of military explosives.
(c) Every military product used by the UK's
arm forces containing explosivesbombs, missiles even some
small arms and gun propellants would have part of its production
in the hands of a foreign owned provider. Foreign governments
have in the past refused to sell the UK Government military products
where its proposed use was not in accordance with their own foreign
policy (Belgium and the refusal to sell 155mm shells 1996).
(d) The decision would be almost impossible
to reverse. In 1938 it took two years to build a fully productive
factory using materials and skilled personnel from pre-existing
(e) The defence strategies of our European
and transatlantic allies clearly show a marked preference for
a fully integrated military industrial strategy. The decision
to close the factories will move Britain significantly out of
step with our allies "France can enter Joint Ventures and
Partnerships but must preserve its capabilities and the capacity
to develop and manufacture alone if necessary" (French Government
Defence Procurement Policy and industrial Strategy').
(f) Britain will lose the ability to manufacture
and supply necessary products at short notice as was shown by
the rapid production of active armour during Gulf War 1.
(g) There are issues with the certification
of imported weapons systems by the Ordnance Board.
(h) Bae Systems operates in an unfair arena
for weapons production in that European arms manufacturers are
subsidised. US explosive production is run on a Government Owned
Contractor Operated systems. UK production operates at a high
level of safety and environmental issues.
(i) Bridgewater is the only UK producer of
the explosive TATB use in the initiator for the warheads of Britain's
nuclear deterrent. Bridgewater supplies all the MoD's requirements
for TATB and also the US Department of Defence. There is only
one other factory capable of producing TATB to the level required
by then MoD, this factory is located in France. Two other facilities,
located in the US exist, they are capable of laboratory levels
of production only. One of these facilities is currently closed
following a fatal accident. We do not believe it is possible for
Bae Systems to guarantee two sources of supply for TATB effectively
placing the ongoing operation of the UK's strategic and tactical
nuclear weapons in the hands of France.
(j) Bridgewater has one of the highest levels
of unemployment in Somerset. Closure of the plant will lead to
a further loss of skilled jobs and training opportunities for
young people in the form of graduate and craft apprenticeships.
We believe that the site closure will lead to the loss of £5.6
million with the consequential impact on local employers and the
(a) Bae Systems claim that Chorley site is
a loss making operation. However, it is unclear why production
at Chorley remains stopped following the fatal accident there
last year. The HSE have given the site a clean bill of health
and failure to restart production and tap into a large internal
and export market makes the financial situation intentionally
self fulfilling. It is unclear how this fits with a desire to
retain strategic production capability.
(b) The proofing ground facility at Chorley
which is used for the testing and certification of a wide range
of Bae Systems products will close. The facility has a long history
of safe and environmentally friendly operation and transport operations.
It is not clear where this activity will be undertaken on the
closure of the site. Any change will carry considerably risk in
terms of establishing equally sale processes and transport operations.
Again off shoring at this facility would not seen to be in the
(c) Closure of production will place production
of MoD's small arms requirement in a dependent position on foreign
owned companies. Recent attempts to source small arms ammunition
from a non UK arms manufacturer resulted in the dumping of 21
million unusable rounds of 9mm ammunition.
In conclusion Bae Systems have already indicated
that 20% of the companies they have approached to establish contractual
relationship for the supply of products currently sourced from
Bridgwater and Chorley were foreign owned or located. All of the
countries in which these companies are based have had recently
difficulties with UK foreign policy. The breakdown is one out
of three businesses for Bridgwater Product UK based and one out
of six businesses UK for Chorley product.
23 January 2006