“improving the image of the”


“sector to make it a more attractive career choice”.

Companies have briefed me proudly on their own contribution to solving the aerospace skills shortage, but the Government and the Royal Academy urgently need to work for consolidation and co-ordination of the plethora of schemes, to build a coherent, comprehensive cross-engineering approach.

Gordon Birtwistle: Does my hon. Friend agree that the first step in encouraging young people to go into apprenticeships and engineering is careers advice at school, which is sadly lacking? At the moment, careers

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advice is normally given by a teacher who has only ever been a teacher and all they want is for young people to go on to university and further education. Engineering desperately needs young people to go into the craft skills, so it can carry on building the products of the future that this country is famous for.

Sir Peter Luff: I could not agree more profoundly or absolutely. My hon. Friend is right. One of the great disappointments of recent years is the decline in the quality of careers guidance in schools. The engineering profession is seeking to address that through a number of initiatives, but the industry should not be required to do that. The Government should understand the importance of this crucial part of the education process.

What worries me is that the Government contribute to the plethora of schemes, sponsoring small and particular solutions to problems that are probably designed to give Ministers announcements to make and sound bites to hide behind in debates such as these. It is time to concentrate on the big schemes that the Government fund, such as the excellent STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—ambassador scheme.

I commend the major companies such as Rolls Royce and Airbus, which demonstrate a commitment to work with existing nationwide schemes—for example, encouraging their staff to become STEM ambassadors. Will the Minister take this opportunity to give his support to STEM ambassadors? In the detail of the AGP’s skills work there is much to applaud, but the micro solutions will work only if the macro issue is addressed: how to make all forms of engineering attractive to young people.

I still regard the looming engineering skills shortage as the single biggest avoidable threat to Britain’s prosperity and security. One way to help address it is to ensure that all industrial strategies, including this one, join up in a big picture approach so that each of them does not just go its own sweet way. It was good news that this summer saw the largest STEM outreach of the aerospace sector during “Futures Day”, on the Friday of the Farnborough International Airshow. More than 7,500 11 to 21-year-olds visited the air show for a hands-on programme of activity designed to enthuse them about the many opportunities in the aerospace sector. A poll by ADS of 150 aerospace MSc students found that one in five were inspired to pursue an aerospace career because of a visit to an air show, so “Futures Day” offered a unique opportunity to inspire the next generation. However, we must always recall that the future of aerospace in the UK is, in Airbus’s words,

“ultimately dependent on the availability of high-calibre scientists, mathematicians and engineers willing to enter the aerospace industry.”

Finally, is the momentum being generated capable of being sustained? Our competitors are snapping at our heels and staying ahead in this particular global race will require every ounce of exertion by both Government and industry. The future is bright, but only if we work to make it so.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Sir Peter’s excellent tour d’horizon of the UK aerospace industry took half an hour, and I want to call the Front Benchers no later

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than 3.40 pm. There are three Members standing, so if they could confine their remarks to no more than 13 minutes each, they should all get in.

3 pm

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): It is always a pleasure, Mr Hollobone, to serve under your chairmanship. It is equally a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I thank the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) for securing it. He has outlined the case brilliantly, although he did not mention Northern Ireland, so I will do that and correct the balance. That is important, because we have an industrious and successful industry in Northern Ireland that creates many jobs, and I will outline that in my contribution.

As the Democratic Unionist party spokesman for transport, this subject interests me, not only because of its magnitude, but because it creates many jobs in my constituency, both directly and indirectly. It creates jobs directly in the companies, and indirectly through sub-contracting. Many companies come into the engineering sphere because of the good work done through the aerospace industry.

We should all feel immensely proud of the UK aerospace industry, and we have every right to be proud of it. We boast the largest aerospace sector in Europe and we are second globally only to the United States. We should shout our successes, not from the rooftops, because we are not on the rooftops, but in the Chamber. The importance of the continued partnership of the Government and the industry through the aerospace growth partnership cannot be underestimated, as the latest figures from the ADS, which represents the aerospace, defence, security and space industries, suggest. As of 28 August, there was a record backlog of more than 12,000 aircraft and 21,000 commercial aircraft engines orders. With the economy still only making a slow recovery and thousands of jobs not yet secure, that is fantastic news for the aerospace industry and for the United Kingdom overall, with estimates that the backlog will be worth between £135 billion and £155 billion over the next nine years. That is not a paltry sum and it indicates how much the aerospace industry contributes to the economy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The aerospace industry is extremely positive. While everything else makes slow and steady progress, the industry has been growing at a pace 10 times quicker than the rest of the economy in the last three years, outstripping many employment sectors. That is another example of the importance of the Government’s partnership with the industry. I am sure that the Minister and the shadow Minister will underline that clearly in their responses. The new orders are simply part of long-term industry growth, with estimates of demand for more than 29,000 commercial airliners between now and 2032, which is in line with the airlines’ desire to carry more passengers and expand their fleets. The future looks positive, and it is positive because of the direct attitude the Government have adopted to the industry, but—as the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire said—other things need to be done to keep us in a prominent position.

The situation certainly looks promising, and I must admit that I was keen to contribute to today’s debate not only in my capacity as my party’s spokesperson for

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transport, but also because of the massive contribution that Northern Ireland makes to the industry. The main factory in Northern Ireland is located in Newtownards in my constituency. I am pleased about that, of course, and I can boast of having one of the most technologically advanced and internationally focused aerospace industries in the world right in my constituency, giving job opportunities to many young people.

The hon. Gentleman referred to apprenticeships, as did the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle), who has commented on the issue before in Adjournment debates and in Westminster Hall, and I am pleased to see such opportunities coming through for people in my area. Bombardier has more than 5,000 highly skilled employees across four sites in Northern Ireland. The site in Newtownards is the biggest, but there are others in Newtownabbey and Belfast. Bombardier promotes many job opportunities, and it is important to see that happening. With first-class capabilities, the site’s operation plays a pivotal role in all of Bombardier’s families of commercial and business aircraft. It also produces and sells components for Rolls-Royce, Airbus and General Electric. Bombardier’s CSeries aircraft has significant UK content, primarily through the advanced composite wings that were designed, and are manufactured, by Bombardier Aerospace in Belfast.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): The hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) emphasised the importance of research and development. One of the ways in which Bombardier has kept its place in the market and, in particular, kept production in Northern Ireland has been through the research and development money made available by the previous Government to ensure that the investment required in Northern Ireland to keep the competitive edge was made. Does my hon. Friend agree with the point made by the hon. Gentleman on the need to think about the long term, because the period of return is long term? It is important to think about long-term research and development incentives if the aerospace industry is to be maintained at its current standard in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Jim Shannon: I thank my hon. Friend for that valuable contribution. He is absolutely right. Sometimes you wonder, Mr Hollobone, whether people have looked at your notes before they make an intervention, because often they raise issues that you were going to come on to. The Northern Ireland Assembly has made a significant commitment to Bombardier—the Minister responsible for that is Arlene Foster—as have this Government and other Governments. We have a huge range of aerospace companies operating in Northern Ireland, including B/E Aerospace, Magellan Aerospace, Goodrich, RFD Beaufort and Thales, to name just a few, so it is perhaps not surprising that one in three of the world’s aircraft seats are manufactured in the village of Kilkeel in Northern Ireland. Look around the world and think of all the planes there are and remember that a third of those seats are manufactured in Kilkeel in Northern Ireland.

Even more good news for Northern Ireland and UK industry was the announcement—this relates to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson)—of a £6.8 million advanced engineering competence centre in Northern Ireland.

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That is a commitment to the future and to research and development. The centre will be based at the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre in Belfast and will focus on developing innovative solutions in the advanced engineering sector. In other words, it will look at the long-term progression of aerospace, not just in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but in Europe and the rest of the world.

The centre is tremendous news locally, as it will no doubt create more jobs, but it is also brilliant news for the UK aerospace industry as a whole. As opportunities in civil aerospace grow, the UK faces increasing competition from mature and emerging markets, so the new centre will, I hope, develop new approaches for advanced engineering, because being ahead of the competitive market is the only way we can ensure that we remain first in Europe and first in the world. That is the point I want to emphasise. We are aiming at short-term goals, but we are also trying to achieve a long-term strategy.

The figures I gave are testament to just how successful and important the aerospace industry is to the UK economy and our ability to compete globally. That is why I urge the Government to work alongside their partners, not just to encourage technological innovations, which are important, but to lead the way in cutting emissions, reducing fuel burning and increasing aircraft efficiency. Those are important issues that we cannot walk away from, and the aerospace industry is trying to address them. That can be done, and we must do our best in tackling them.

One thing that is close to my heart is my wish to see the Government encouraging students and young people to undertake the necessary courses at universities and technical colleges, as the hon. Member for Burnley said. We need not only aerospace engineers and technicians to replace the current generation—we have to look at that—but staff who can work with new technologies and materials. We need further education at universities and technical colleges to work alongside the industry to ensure that the bright brains of our young people are there to take on those jobs.

I am pleased to learn that almost 70% of UK aerospace companies employ apprentices and trainees. That is tremendous news. Each year we meet some of those trainees here in Westminster, as I did this summer. It was good to meet some of the young men and women who are interested in the industry and looking for opportunities. We have a commitment from Government, both here at Westminster and regionally, to ensure there are apprenticeship opportunities for both genders. This is exactly what the industry needs. Provided we continue to develop and innovate, I believe that the future of UK aerospace is very bright indeed.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): I call Sir Gerald Howarth—a qualified pilot.

3.10 pm

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): It is a delight to participate in the debate under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff), who was my colleague at the Ministry of Defence. He has done us all a great favour in raising the debate, which follows a debate we had on 22 November 2012. Many of the key

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points that have surfaced in today’s debate were also mentioned then. I share his recollection of the Viscount flying over Windsor because I was at school at Haileybury and Imperial Service College junior school in Windsor. Indeed, I used to fly on the Viscount 700 from the then new Heathrow airport to my home in Hamburg in Germany.

I also share an appreciation of the Farnborough air show, which takes place in my constituency. Those present who did not attend the Farnborough air show need to report to my study afterwards to explain why, because the whole world comes to Farnborough. Interestingly, this year the air show was responsible for the signing of a record number of orders for new aircraft and systems. About $83 billion of business was done at the last air show; this year $200 billion of business was signed at Farnborough. It is hugely important to the British economy and to our industry.

Farnborough is home to BAE Systems, the world’s fourth largest defence contractor, and QinetiQ, which is one of the world’s leading research companies. QinetiQ holds more than 1,500 patents, 1,000 patents pending and has 1,000 defence contracts at any one time. Farnborough also has the headquarters of AgustaWestland International. Its senior vice-president in charge of international business is no less than our former colleague Geoff Hoon, with whom I get on extremely well. He is doing a great job promoting the interests of Westland around the world. I also have a lot of smaller companies in my constituency, such as Cam Lock, which makes face masks for every US naval fast jet in operation and for the Royal Air Force. I have EWST, which makes electronic warfare testing equipment. I have Sonardyne, which makes detection equipment. A huge amount goes on in my constituency, and I hope hon. Members will understand why I am keen to take part in the debate.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire said, aerospace is a hugely successful business in the United Kingdom. We are world leaders. We have the second largest aerospace industry in the world and the biggest in Europe. We have 17% of the world market. The UK industry is split 50:50 between civilian and military. It employs 109,000 people directly and 120,000 indirectly. It is a massive contributor to manufacturing industry. Everyone is talking about the importance of the manufacturing industry for this country, but we have in our midst the world’s second most successful manufacturing industry. Let us go out there and promote it. It is not just BAE Systems, QinetiQ or Rolls-Royce, but a whole string of companies, whose names I cannot exhaust. I will single out a few: MBDA, which stands for Matra BAE Dynamics Alenia; Cobham; Marshall; Babcock; Serco; Martin-Baker; and Bombardier—formerly Short Brothers. I have seen some of the fantastic work that goes on in Northern Ireland, which is world leading in missile technology.

Aerospace manufacturing is done across the kingdom, including in Scotland, which I hope will remain part of the kingdom. As the son of a Scottish borderer, I am going to Scotland on 15 September—battle of Britain day—to fight for the maintenance of the Union of the United Kingdom.

We have hundreds of SMEs—another success story. In 2008 there were 380 enterprises engaged in this industry, according to the Library’s very helpful brief. Today that figure is 560. This industry is growing, and it

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provides prosperity to the United Kingdom. That is critically important. Interestingly, the 2009 Oxford Economics paper states:

“A £100 million investment in the defence industry generates an increase in gross output of £227 million, and increases Exchequer revenues by £11.5 million.”

Sammy Wilson: Northern Ireland is the ninth biggest European region for the aerospace industry and we therefore greatly feel the pressures. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that there are great pressures on the industry because of the high exchange rate, the difficulty in getting finance from banks—and the effect that has had, especially on the small and medium-sized enterprise supply chain—and the anti-competitive practices in other countries, where certain firms are given advantages that we do not have in the United Kingdom?

Sir Gerald Howarth: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about having one hand tied behind our back. Our businesses are not hugely helped by the anti-corruption legislation that we have put in place, which other countries do not sign up to as readily as we do. In fairness, I acknowledge the huge importance of Northern Ireland in the wider United Kingdom aerospace business: it is an integral part, not an add-on.

The aerospace industry contributes two things. First, there is the prosperity, which I have illustrated. Secondly, it provides us with the sovereign capability to defend ourselves. That is critically important. We can all see what is currently going on around the world. It is devastating for those of us who have been around a bit. Things have never looked so uncertain, volatile and frightening. We need to remember that we have taken our defence for granted. In much of it, we are assisted by the United States of America, its massive spending programme and its lynchpin role in NATO. In the United Kingdom we have the ability to defend ourselves. We are not reliant on other people, who might withhold technology or equipment. We must be able to generate such things in the United Kingdom.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire and I were in the MOD we had a battle about whether we should have a defence industrial strategy, and whether maintaining a sovereign capability in the United Kingdom should be a key Government policy. He and I were on the same side. It is common knowledge that some of my colleagues in the Conservative party took the view we should not have any kind of industrial policy. They felt that was interventionist and socialist. I do not accept that. The Government have a responsibility for the defence of the realm. That is the first duty of Government. We have responsibility to ensure we have the means to protect ourselves. Two years ago I paid tribute to Lord Drayson, who produced the defence industrial strategy, and I do so again. It is one of best, most articulate and clearest documents to be produced on this matter. As Lord Drayson said, we have to remember that today’s kit is the result of yesterday’s investment. Therefore, we have to invest today.

I congratulate the Government on what they have done on the aerospace growth partnership and the defence growth partnership. There has been a genuine partnership, with industry and the Government working together. That is the sort of thing we need to do and I warmly welcome it. Industry is also doing well on the

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skills front. BAE Systems has a huge investment in taking on young people and giving them skills. Leo Quinn, the chief executive of QinetiQ in my constituency, is seriously concerned about the promotion of skills. As my hon. Friends the Member for Mid Worcestershire and for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) said, we need to do more to promote the merit, mobility, importance and excitement of the manufacturing industry, particularly in the field of aerospace and defence.

We should, however, be concerned, because the order book of BAE Systems is declining. It stands at £40 billion and that is a massive figure, but it is falling, and we know the pressure that defence budgets are under around the world. There is increasing competition from other countries. We have promoted defence exports—and the Prime Minister has been magnificent in giving a lead on that—but it is not possible to sell anything nowadays without being prepared to transfer the technology. We face a growing challenge from India and China, who want to take their place in this important marketplace. If we will have to transfer our technology every time we seek to sell the Typhoon or other important military equipment, what is there for the United Kingdom? How are we going to feed our people? That is where innovation comes in. That is where investment in technology, and defence research in particular, comes in. I could not agree more with the comment by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire that innovation underpins growth. I have made a note that the only way we can compete is by innovation. We are all on the same page with that.

The Government have a role to play. Unfortunately, there has been a fall in defence research by the Ministry of Defence. The latest figures are not encouraging. In 1990-91 the Government spent, at 2012-13 prices, pretty well £4 billion on defence research. That figure fell to £1.8 billion in 2010-11. Fortunately, industry seems to be spending more. According to KPMG, 75% of respondents to a survey said that they would spend between 2% and 3% of revenues on research and development in the next two years; 16% said they would spend between 4% and 5%. If we are to maintain our position in the world we must do that. We must also decide where we go after the joint strike fighter. I have been visiting BAE Systems at Warton for many years. When I used to go there 20 or 30 years ago, I would always be told “We are okay for the next five or 10 years, and then there is a cliff edge.” The Typhoon came along, and now we have JSF—but where do we go after that? I do not believe that manned fighter aircraft can simply be consigned to the dustbin of history. Manned flight still has a critical role to play, particularly in situation awareness.

I welcome what the Government and BAE Systems are doing with Taranis, which is an ITAR-free programme that I launched to the press, who were not allowed to come within 50 yards of it, I am pleased to say. However, we need to maintain the technology. Taranis is a great technology demonstrator. We need more technology demonstrators and we also need a proper debate on where the industry will go, post-JSF.

3.23 pm

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Hollobone.

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Manufacturing and aerospace are clearly vital to the economy of north-east Wales and the north-west of England. At the heart of that, as has been mentioned, is Airbus at Broughton, where there are more than 6,000 jobs at one plant. Importantly, there are thousands more in the supply chain. We do not talk enough about the supply chain, although I am pleased that other hon. Members have done so today—without it, the primes would not be able to produce the goods. We should give it more support and discussion.

Airbus alone supports more than 100,000 jobs in the supply chain, and if we included the other aerospace primes the number would be very high. That area of activity is high quality and export-driven; it raises billions of pounds for the UK every year, and the jobs are of high quality as well.

If such a level of employment is to be maintained, and if there is to be expansion and growth, we need to improve our skills base. Even during the economic downturn, companies told me that they found it difficult to find skills at the level they need. Apprenticeships are important in that context; in the past three years in the UK, Airbus alone has enrolled 4,000 apprentices. It is telling that 70% of its senior managers were apprentices at one time. We need to send a message—I am pleased that other hon. Members have mentioned this—that apprenticeships are not something for kids who do not get to university because they are not bright enough. They are very important. We need to adopt more of a German model, where it is not a case of university for some and apprenticeships for others. We need a programme where it is more possible for people to transfer between the two. Most employers would probably say that the ideal person has a university qualification but has worked or done some training in the workplace—not someone who has been nowhere but the classroom, but someone who has skills they can use and the benefit of a university education.

We have a long way to go to catch up. For every pound that the UK spends on research and development, France spends £10 and Germany spends £15. Many hon. Members have mentioned the Aerospace Growth Partnership, which is doing a good job. It needs more, and we should help it more, but the key, as has been mentioned, is the fact that it has cross-party support.

A problem in the past has been that whoever came into government chucked things out and brought other things in, which led to uncertainty. Big employers—even small employers—do not know whether to invest in the relevant area, and whether the Government will still support them. A classic example of what I mean is the area of composites. The UK failed to invest in the coming material for aircraft. I was pleased that Lord Mandelson grasped that and realised that we should provide support. If we had not done that—we were well behind the Spanish and Germans, and I think we still are; we need to do much more work—we would have been in a difficult position.

The importance of the A400M, which has already been mentioned, was civil as well as military, because it demonstrated that we could do the relevant work with composites. The A350 extra-wide body will be 53% composite. Our colleagues in Europe—our partners in Airbus—would love to get their hands on that work.

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The Spanish and Germans have made no pretence about it. We are fortunate to have it, but I do not think that, just because we have built the wings for years, we can assume that we will always get them in years to come. We are only as good as our last aircraft, or our potential to produce the next one. Clearly the next big challenge for Airbus will be the replacement for the A320, which is the workhorse of so many airlines. If we were not to get that work, the longer-term future for Airbus in the UK would be bleak.

Sir Gerald Howarth: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the Airbus A320. I happened to fly in one of the test models. It was, of course, a good example of Government and industry working together; the Thatcher Government put £250 million into the programme. Margaret Thatcher took a lot of persuading, but eventually even she agreed that Government intervention on that was a good idea.

Mark Tami: I totally agree. Going even further back, I remember when an Industry Secretary had the choice whether to keep the Airbus share or go for Concorde. He went for Concorde, which, in hindsight, was probably not the best choice. There will be crucial choices for the UK about Airbus in the coming years; the new A320 is almost certain to be a wholly composite aircraft, with structures different from those we are used to.

There is a big challenge for us out there, but there are also other threats to Airbus. The hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) mentioned unfair competition. There is nothing wrong with competition, which is good in many ways, but unfair competition is bad and threatens the future of an important industry. For years, the US dominated both the civil and military aircraft markets and I suppose it thought that no one would ever challenge it. Airbus did, however, and it now accounts for a large share. New players such as China, Canada, Russia and Brazil are all looking for a segment of the market, so we cannot assume that the big players will remain unchallenged.

We need only to look at the 747, which was funded by the American Government as a military transport aircraft. Boeing actually received all the funding and had many of its costs paid and then—surprise, surprise—somebody decided that people could also be put on it and that it could be used as a civil airliner. Airbus and Boeing have both been to the World Trade Organisation. Such processes are always long and drawn out, but the WTO found in 2012 that many of the US subsidies were not allowable under WTO rules. Back in 2011, the WTO found that repayable launch investment was, but there was some issue with the interest rates.

The EU has sought to address some issues, but, as the hon. Gentleman made clear, the Americans have done the exact opposite and decided to give the biggest ever single tax break of $9 billion to Washington state, which will then hand it on to Boeing to pay for the development costs of the 777X, which is exactly what was done with the 747. That is happening at a time when America is looking to Europe for an agreement about more competition and more open markets.

To be honest, the problem is that the US wants to compete freely in our markets, but it does not think that we should be able to compete in theirs. We have seen that before, such as when BAE Systems tried to break

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into the American defence market. Probably the worst example was the air tanker competition in the US, which was won convincingly by Airbus, but Boeing then went crying to the US Government, who then stopped the competition and changed the rules so that Boeing could be the only winner. Surprise, surprise, the contract went to Boeing.

I certainly do not want us to return to a system of closed markets because that would not be good for Airbus or our industry, but we need a level playing field. We cannot have a system in which we are expected to play by the rules when others are not; many jobs will be lost, plants will close and we will return to Boeing, or whatever company, ruling the roost once more. We want open markets for our companies to compete in and can expect that America does as well, but the situation cannot be unfair. I hope that our Government will be far more forthright with Europe and will work with it to ensure that we stand up and make our case, because it is vital to the future of the industry.

I want to refer to another threat—the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire may disagree with me on this: our future in Europe. I am particularly worried because Airbus is an example of the perfect way in which Europe can work together. Were we outside the EU, I have serious doubts that we would have the same level of investment. I am not saying that the plants at Filton or Broughton would close tomorrow or that we would lose existing orders, but we would jeopardise future investment as the Germans, the French and the Spanish would make a strong case for investment to be made within the European Union and not in an outside country. Those who are calling for our exit need to consider the implications for jobs.

Sir Peter Luff: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his fine speech. Just for the record, I strongly agree with his point about membership of the European Union and the particular impact on the aerospace sector.

Mark Tami: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. Such a move would affect not only Airbus, but also the many thousands in the supply chain.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is making a good speech. However, the biggest employer in my constituency is GE Aviation, an American company that has been visited by ex-Ministers. There was concern about its plans when it took over the plant, but it has heavily invested in it.

Mark Tami: I clearly welcome that. As I have said, it is good that we have American companies over here, but I would like to see more British companies buy companies in America, although that often seems difficult. There are great opportunities for us, but there are threats as well. We must learn the lessons of the past. We have lost many manufacturing companies that we thought would go on for ever, and many will never return. Aerospace is a great opportunity and we must grasp it and invest, not just let it fall by the wayside.

3.36 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): May I begin, Mr Hollobone, by saying what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship again? I also want to thank the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff)

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for securing the debate and for advancing his argument in such a characteristically persuasive and courteous, although on this occasion very quiet, manner. I hope that his voice returns soon. I have said it before, but it bears repeating: I am sorry to see him leave the House, especially given the work he has been doing on raising the status of engineering in this country. He leaves a good body of work and I am sure that it will continue outside the House. He will be missed, certainly by the Opposition, for the work that he has done.

As this is the first time I have debated with the new Minister, I want to welcome him to his post. Since he obtained his red box, he has aged about 35 years, so the Government must be working him far too hard. I am pleased that he has been given specific responsibility for the life sciences sector, and I hope that we can soon debate the future of that vital industrial sector, too.

We have had a good debate about the future of the UK aerospace industry, which, as has been said many times, is a remarkable success story. Indeed, it is the very model of what a successful modern industrial sector in the UK in the 21st century should look like: high value added, with a focus on design, manufacturing, production, maintenance, innovation and excellence, as well as a relentless drive in the global export market, providing highly skilled and well-paid jobs and enjoying a long-term, collaborative approach between industry, Government, employees and research institutions.

Over the summer, I was privileged to visit the design team and view the manufacture of the A400M at Airbus in Filton. I have been to Marshall of Cambridge, which is one of only 15 companies out of a total global supply chain of 23,000 suppliers to be presented with a supplier of the year award in 2014 from Boeing. I also visited Rolls-Royce in Derby and the manufacturing technology centre in Anstey to see how innovation and collaboration between industry, research institutions and Government is ensuring that British industry retains its competitive edge.

The aerospace industry is vital to the UK economy, and, as the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, this country should rightly be proud of it. It is worth noting that the UK aerospace industry grew on average by over 7% each year since 2008. Bearing in mind where we were in 2008, with the global financial recession and the drying up of credit across the world, that is a remarkable achievement. One reason for that, apart from the technical brilliance, drive and entrepreneurialism within the industry, is long-term collaboration between Government and industry. The aerospace industrial strategy, set up by the previous Labour Government and, thankfully, continued under the current Administration, has provided the industry with long-term certainty to plan and invest in Britain with confidence. Labour remains determined to ensure that the UK maintains its position as Europe’s No. 1 aerospace manufacturer, and that Britain remains second only to the US on the global stage.

We are well placed to capture a sizeable part of future growth in the industry. As has been said today, it has been estimated that, by 2032, more than 29,000 new civil airliners will be required, with a value of almost $4 trillion. As the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire said, according to the data released by the trade association ADS last week, the largest ever month-on-month

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increase in the industry’s order book will bring it to about 12,000 aircraft and 21,000 engines in total, worth between £135 billion and £155 billion to the UK economy in the next nine years.

Labour Members welcome that and we will actively look to capture greater market share in a growing industry, although, as has been acknowledged today, that will be difficult, given the rapid pace of innovation and technological progress, the intensifying competition and the determination of other nations to secure a firm foothold in a high-value, lucrative and prestigious sector. In direct response to what the hon. Gentleman was asking me, that is why the next Labour Government will prioritise the aerospace industrial strategy as a vital sector. We will maintain the Aerospace Growth Partnership and the Aerospace Technology Institute, and we will emphasise the importance of long-term policy stability to allow the industry to soar ever higher.

A number of issues need to be addressed—many have been aired today—in order to ensure that the ambition for the industry is realised. I was particularly pleased to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) said about the importance of the supply chain, because he is absolutely right. It is key that the supply chain is aligned with what the primes require to maintain competitiveness and technological innovation. No one wants to see work leak away from our shores, costing jobs and industrial capability, because of an un-coordinated, uncompetitive or unresponsive supply chain.

The hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire, in his opening remarks, mentioned the report in yesterday’s Financial Times. It is worth the Minister having a look at the report, which questioned the industry’s supply chain capacity to deliver the backlog of orders, especially when combined with the simultaneous emergence of new product development lines. Geoff Ford, who runs Ford Aerospace in my region of the north-east—I have been to see his factory—stated in that Financial Times report that the backlog of orders should give the suppliers the confidence to expand and to increase capacity. He said:

“If we don’t do that we’ll lose out to other countries.”

He is absolutely right.

What is the Minister doing to ensure that British-based companies in the aerospace supply chain are geared up to take advantage of the industry’s great order book? Not only is capacity important, but so is ensuring that technological advances and product development cascade through the primes and into the supply chain. The role of a proper, co-ordinated industrial strategy is crucial. If industry states that composites will be used more in future at the expense of metals, how are the supply chain companies being assisted to make the investments needed, not only to grow capacity, but to stay relevant to the primes’ modern production requirements? What are the Government doing to assist?

Access to finance has not been mentioned as much as I thought it would in the debate, but it is equally crucial, especially in the aerospace supply chain. The nature of the industry means that up-front capital expenditure is often required with long pay-back times. Supply chain work might move from Britain if British companies do

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not have access to the finance necessary to invest and compete. Will the Minister update the House about progress on the supply chain finance forum set up by the AGP? What tangible improvements have been seen? How many companies have received access to finance for up-front investment costs? Similarly, will the Minister let us know how many companies have benefited from and actually received the cash from the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme since its launch?

In connection with the importance of the aerospace industry, I think about the three S’s: supply chain, skills and certainty. I have already mentioned certainty and the supply chain, but I must make a point about skills as well. Skills are the means by which the industry will maintain its competitive edge. The work force is ageing and, traditionally, the sector has not provided as many apprenticeships as other comparable sectors have done, although that is now changing. There is a need to increase the industry’s capabilities in certain skills and trades. Many companies carry vacancies that cannot be filled because of a lack of suitable skills. Unless that problem is addressed urgently, activity will move away from the UK, because of a lack of suitable skills.

Is the AGP going as far as it can to identify the specific crafts and skills necessary to enable the UK to maintain its comparative advantage? For example, the AGP has introduced standards for an aerospace manufacturing fitter role, and something similar for electrical fitters and machinists is being developed. What other trades are being considered? That is important and would show the benefits of a proper, co-ordinated industrial strategy.

Gordon Birtwistle: I agree with the shadow Minister. The craft parts of the industry are critical. Plenty of young people wish to be involved in design and the high-tech part, but the craft side is critical. Does he agree with me and with the big companies such as Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems and Airbus, which are now training more than the necessary number of apprentices? For the benefit of its supply chain, Rolls-Royce took on double the number of apprentices that it needs. Does he agree that some of the bigger companies should be getting on board and doing that for the smaller companies in the supply chain?

Mr Wright: The hon. Gentleman is right, and that model works well for the aerospace industry. I certainly want to see that encouraged, because an oversupply of apprentices then cascaded down through the supply chain reassures the primes about quality. It can be a means by which the whole competitiveness of the sector can be maintained and something that we should certainly encourage.

Jim Shannon: In Northern Ireland, with Shorts aircraft fitters for example, Bombardier has been anxious and keen to secure recruitment from those in the 50-plus bracket, who perhaps went to another job, but still have the skills. They can come back to do training with Shorts Bombardier. That is an example of where in the United Kingdom that is happening for those over 50, who are not on the apprenticeship scale, but are looking for jobs and have the skills.

Mr Wright: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point.

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Going back to what the hon. Member for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) asked in an earlier intervention, not only with specific regard to particular trades and fitting, but the whole education system, from primary through secondary education and on to further and higher education, the system should be geared up to say, “The aerospace industry: you could have a fantastic career if you choose it.” Going to work in a factory, in particular somewhere such as Airbus in Broughton, is certainly not a sign of failure. I would be absolutely delighted if one of my children won an Airbus apprenticeship. It is a fantastic success story, which we need to encourage. The culture of this country is that we do not make anything in Britain any more, but that is simply not true in practice. What steps are the Government taking on manufacturing in general and aerospace in particular to ensure that that is dealt with?

I mentioned the success of exports for the UK aerospace industry, with 90% of the high-value products made by the sector in Britain exported overseas. However, the industry has told me—the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire mentioned this—that more support and co-ordination are needed for export sales campaigns. Primes and suppliers have said to me fairly consistently that they would like more advanced information and to be more closely involved when Ministers are travelling on trade missions, or when international delegations are visiting the UK. Will the Minister respond to what seems to be a constant voice?

Sir Gerald Howarth: As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) said, the UKTI Defence & Security Organisation has done a fantastic job under Richard Paniguian. May I add that, in my experience, our embassies around the world are fantastic? For the record, the late Simon Featherstone, our high commissioner in Malaysia, was one of those diplomats who really helped us.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Order. To draw his remarks to a close, I call Iain Wright.

Mr Wright: My final point, as has been mentioned several times, is about ensuring that British firms are competing on a level international playing field. What steps are the Government taking with the European Commission and the WTO to ensure that rules are complied with and enforced, so that there is a level playing field?

Aerospace is a massive success story for Britain, which needs to continue not only next year but for the next few decades. There is cross-party support, and I hope that the Minister will address our points in his response.

3.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (George Freeman): It is an absolute pleasure to start my Front-Bench work in Westminster Hall under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Sir Peter Luff) on securing this debate. I also want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to his work on this sector and on industrial strategy more generally, in what has been a very distinguished career in this House and in Government. From our work over

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the past few years, he knows that I share his passion for making sure that we use every pound of Government money to support a wider, more balanced long-term economic growth agenda for this country. This debate has played an important part in highlighting those issues.

My hon. Friend has raised a number of excellent points about the civil aerospace sector in the UK: the role of innovation in driving long-term growth; whether the current strategy is sufficient to rise to the international competitive challenge; how we can improve linkages between the defence sector and the space sector; whether both we and the supply chain sufficiently understand the views of the major US players; the case for improving export support; the need to support companies in the supply chain, both small and large; whether the approach to skills is adequate; and the importance of maintaining the momentum of the AGP.

We have also heard important contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), for Burnley (Gordon Birtwistle) and for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), from the hon. Members for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) and from the shadow Minister. There is a strong consensus in the room on the importance of the sector and its need for cross-party support. I will strive to respond to all the points raised as best I can in the time available. If I fail to do so, I will write to Members to deal with points in detail.

The Government know well that the aerospace industry is vital for the UK economy. It is one of our key industrial sectors and, like the life sciences sector, a key driver of long-term growth. I was struck by the recent figures from ADS showing that since 2011 the sector has grown by 14%. That is a real success story for the UK and something we should be rightly proud of. There is a huge opportunity for the UK to benefit from the forecast growth in aerospace, with forecast demand for 29,000 new passenger aircraft, valued at over $4 trillion, between now and 2032.

The sector has achieved so much, through a combination of good management, a skilled, innovative work force, supportive trade unions and long-term Government policy. The recent aerospace sector strategy provides long-term stability for the UK. It is particularly important for sectors such as aerospace and the life sciences that we lay out a programme for long-term support to secure investment.

The Aerospace Growth Partnership, set up in 2010, was designed to transform the way in which Government and industry work together. The AGP led on developing the industrial strategy published in 2013 and is now taking forward its implementation. It is not something that we can take for granted. In early meetings with the aerospace industry’s business leaders, it was striking that our national success is dependent on investment in research and technology. The UK’s No. l position in Europe was built on heavy investment in the ’70s and ’80s. However, over the years, public funding reduced significantly, resulting in some of our research capability going overseas, followed, inevitably, by some manufacturing jobs. That had to be addressed. It was through those honest, frank conversations that the seeds were planted for what became the aerospace industrial strategy.

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It quickly became apparent that there was a need for Government to operate strategically over the long term. For critically important sectors such as aerospace, that is essential. For example, all hon. Members here will know that the Airbus A320 family was launched in 1984 and first flown in 1987, and is still selling strongly in 2014, with over 6,000 delivered so far and an order backlog of 1,200. Like the other sectors for which the Government have set out industrial strategies, the aerospace sector has long-term product development time scales that last well beyond a single Parliament and require a stable environment where industry and Government pull in the same direction. In that context, I warmly welcome the shadow Minister’s comments.

At the heart of the industrial strategy was a commitment to set up the Aerospace Technology Institute and for industry and Government to invest £2 billion over the next seven years in new technology and manufacturing—the largest and longest commitment on aerospace in a generation, creating funding certainty through to the end of the next Parliament, to give industry the certainty it needs to invest in the UK. It is a new way of working that avoids the piecemeal, ad hoc, hand-to-mouth approach of the past. It matches industry time scales that allow new technology to be developed and harnessed into game-changing products.

I am pleased to say that industry and Government have made good progress in setting up the Aerospace Technology Institute. Key posts have been filled, the office has been established in Cranfield and the institute has been fully operational since the beginning of April. A key part of the ATI’s work in the months ahead will be to develop a technology strategy for the UK that will take into account the international competitive challenge of which my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire spoke.

We have wasted no time in putting that work to good use. To strengthen critical parts of infrastructure, we have already committed £60 million to the manufacturing technology centre in Ansty and £15 million to upgrade wind tunnels in research organisations. In total, we have announced well over £300 million of collaborative research projects, involving companies of all sizes working alongside academic and research institutions. Over 100 UK companies and 26 universities are now involved across the UK.

Knowing that long-term research funding is available gives business the confidence to invest. I was delighted at the announcement at Farnborough air show that Airbus will develop a new version of the A330, which will exclusively feature the new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engine. With over 120 orders already, the new aircraft will support jobs in Airbus, Rolls-Royce and the wider supply chain.

I turn now to skills, another issue raised by my hon. Friend. A big success story has been the jointly funded initiative to create an additional 500 masters-level postgraduate places. Last year, as planned, 100 bursaries were awarded; this year we have awarded a further 200 bursaries and the remainder will be awarded next year. I am delighted to report that industry has just opened up a portal on the Talent Retention Solution website so that bursary holders can link up with companies of all sizes.

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I can also report that industry has submitted a bid through the AGP to the Government’s employer ownership programme to tackle its priority skills needs. It includes actions to boost apprenticeship numbers, and improve early career opportunities and the flow of high-level skills into the sector. That bid, for over £10 million of public funding, will leverage in additional investment by industry. I will take the opportunity to set out my support—as my hon. Friend invited me to—for the flagship apprenticeships and the STEM programme, which he talked of earlier.

Mr Laurence Robertson: Will the Minister be so kind as to look into any possible effect that the changes in funding of apprenticeship schemes might have on the industry—not necessarily now?

George Freeman: That is an important point. I will be delighted to look into it and come back to my hon. Friend.

We have also opened a dialogue with industry about the potential to create a national college for aerospace to help the sector tackle its long-term skills needs. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire also mentioned the importance of promoting women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. I pay tribute to him for his campaigning work on increasing the flow of STEM skills into the economy and increasing the number of women working in STEM jobs. As in the life sciences, that is a key strategic priority for the future of our country. I want particularly to take the opportunity to support the STEM ambassador scheme.

To boost the pool of potential engineers, the Government are making a series of interventions across the spectrum, within vocational and higher education and with employers. In response to Professor Perkins’s review, we are putting in £30 million for employers to address engineering skills shortages in sectors, £18 million of investment in a new elite training facility at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and £250,000 of seed funding to encourage children in schools to consider engineering careers through the Tomorrow’s Engineers initiative. In addition, last year my right hon. Friend the Member for Havant (Mr Willetts) announced a £400 million boost for English universities to promote science and engineering —a £200 million fund from Government that will be matched by universities on a one-to-one basis.

The Government cannot tackle this agenda alone: engineering employers, the profession and educators need to work together with Government to increase the supply of engineers in the UK. Companies such as QinetiQ, based in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire, are taking a leading role through initiatives such as the 5% Club.

The AGP is also working to increase the competitiveness of our supply chain. The ambitious Sharing in Growth programme is part of that work and a great example of how the sector is raising the capability of our aerospace suppliers, mainly at mid-cap and smaller business level. Sharing in Growth is an ambitious £120 million performance improvement programme tailored to the specific needs of the participating companies. The programme is backed with £50 million from the regional growth fund and aims to secure or create up to 3,000 UK jobs. The Aerospace Growth Partnership has also created the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation

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Programme, a £40 million programme backed by £23 million from the advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative, to help smaller companies innovate and expand.

I will also pick up on my hon. Friend’s comments on Boeing. Although Boeing was not a formal part of the Aerospace Growth Partnership, given that it has no civil manufacturing presence in the UK, we have made it clear that initiatives coming out of the AGP, such as R and D funding, are open to Boeing when working with UK suppliers.

As time is running short, I shall conclude by touching on the issue of the Washington state tax breaks. I am pleased my hon. Friend has taken this opportunity to set out a balanced description of the WTO disputes. We continue to work with EU counterparts and I will be happy to write to him in detail on that ongoing work.

My hon. Friend also touched on the importance of links between the civil and defence aerospace sectors. Again, I will write to him in detail, but I emphasise that the Government are looking at that crucial area.

I conclude by highlighting once more the work the AGP has done and congratulating it on what it has achieved so far. It is already beginning to make a difference, which was summed up in a recent interview in TheSunday Telegraph with Fabrice Brégier, CEO of Airbus, who said—I will not use a French accent:

“I must say the UK has an approach which is to support industry, to support the economy and to be very pragmatic…We would like at times for other parts of Europe to have the same pragmatism and support.”

The signs are that there is increasing confidence in investing in the UK, and we are seeing fantastic new aerospace facilities. In less than four months, we will all be in election mode, but the best test of all this work will be if we can maintain sufficient unity of purpose. Today’s debate has suggested that that unity does indeed exist, which is important and to the benefit of us all.

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High Speed 2 (Warrington)

4 pm

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): The Minister has brought the plane into the terminal bang on time. We now switch from planes to trains, because we have an important debate on the effect on Warrington of the proposed route of High Speed 2, in the name of David Mowat. Will all of those who are not staying for this debate please leave the room quickly and quietly so that the train can leave the platform on time?

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for this important debate, Mr Hollobone—it is also a relief not to have to follow the French accent of the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Norfolk (George Freeman).

I have been a Member of Parliament for four and a half years and, in that time, I have spoken in about five debates on HS2. In each of them I have been consistent in my support for the project. I have said at various times that the project should go ahead not because of what happens in other countries, but because there is a business case: the economic and strategic benefits are there and the cash flow exists. Moreover, we are doing what we can to redress the failure of successive Governments to invest adequately in infrastructure in the north of England, as opposed to the south-east.

While I reiterate my support for the project as a whole, I will talk about one aspect that affects Warrington, colloquially known as the Wigan spur: 40 km of line that, as far as I can understand, has no purpose and no business benefit and represents an opportunity for the HS2 project to save £1 billion without affecting the benefits. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West (Mr Brady) has joined us on that point.

For clarity, Mr Hollobone, this debate was called for jointly by the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) and me. Therefore, with your indulgence, I will speak for 10 minutes, she will speak for 10 minutes —the Minister, generously, has agreed that that works for him.

The benefit-cost ratio of HS2 is something like 2.3:1, which is driven by capacity constraints. Indeed, my view—the Minister might be pleased to hear this—is that that is a conservative estimate, because that is based on demand growth increases of 2.2% between now and 2036 and then no increase after that. If we make any kind of assumptions about growth requirements after 2036, the BCR will be massively greater—I think it would be £4 of return for every £1 spent.

As we turn to the impact on Warrington, I have no quarrel with the fact that Warrington Bank Quay is not a primary station on the line. Not every station can be primary and Warrington is situated pretty close to Manchester airport as well as to Manchester. When talking about this project Lord Adonis has said that

“while everyone wants the stations, no-one wants the line.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 November 2013; Vol. 749, c. 909.]

and that is true. I am not here as a nimby and nor is the hon. Member for Warrington North. If there was a purpose in the line scything through our constituencies—her constituency in particular—we could have a more balanced

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discussion. However, try as I might, I cannot find the benefit of that spur to Warrington or anywhere else in the country.

Warrington Bank Quay is an important station. In terms of the north-west, Warrington is not Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool or Sheffield, but we are a sizeable town and we punch above our weight in economic clout. The Centre for Cities report placed Warrington in the top four in the UK on a range of metrics and economic impacts. We were third for employment and fifth for the ratio of private sector to public sector jobs—we have a very small public sector. There are pockets of deprivation but, by and large, Warrington is a prosperous place. It is important that that prosperity continues and that HS2 contributes to that. I believe that it will.

The 50,000 extra jobs predicted to be created in the north-west will have an impact on Warrington. I have read the regional business analysis that estimates some £100 million of benefits a year for the town. My issue is that none of that comes from the line being built north of Manchester.

The line will be about 40 km long and a massive engineering endeavour at a cost of about £1 billion. It will cross the M62; the Manchester ship canal, with a viaduct about 30 metres high; the M56 twice; the East Lancs road; the Warrington Central line; and the Mersey. A young engineer with an infinite budget and a computer-aided design system must have spent a great deal of time designing it, because the challenges were tremendous. What the line does not appear to have, however, is any business benefit.

In terms of the effect on my constituency, admittedly only 1,000 metres of the line will go through my patch and, in the 200 or 300 metres either side of it, probably only seven or eight buildings will be affected. That is not to say that those affected are not badly affected—Gareth and Steph Buckley, Malcolm and Margot Pritchard, George and Clare Worth and Thomas and Maureen Uttley are all massively blighted by this—but the hon. Member for Warrington North will talk in more detail about the impact on her constituency and constituents, which is more significant.

What is that impact for? I thought that the line must be the first bit of phase 3, to get to Scotland, but then people said, “No, it has not been decided yet whether phase 3 will go north along the west coast or the east coast.” Indeed, it seems that there are arguments for phase 3 going up the east coast, so it is not apparently a precursor for phase 3.

What about the speed advantages? I have been advised in written answers that the speed advantage of this line means that the three trains an hour coming down from Carlisle and Preston—and Glasgow, I guess—will get to their destination 13 minutes faster as a consequence of scything through Warrington. Again, that cannot be rational, because we are now agreed that we have moved away from a business case based on speed to one on capacity, but capacity will not be increased.

What I accept the line does provide is a depot in a place called Golborne in Wigan. For a long time I thought that the people of Wigan were determined to have that depot in Golborne and had lobbied very hard

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to get this—what appears to me irrational—huge piece of engineering, at a cost of £1 billion. I am informed, though, that the right hon. Member for Leigh (Andy Burnham), is adamant in his opposition to it, as are many of his colleagues in that area, so that cannot be the reason.

I hope that the Minister can shed some light on why this is being done. To reiterate, I have read carefully the economic case and the strategic case that show no benefits pertaining to this line. The benefits all come from productivity and the agglomeration benefits of Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and Sheffield all being better connected to themselves and Birmingham and the capital. The regional case does not provide anything either.

I accept that we need a depot somewhere, but I cannot conceive that we need to spend £1 billion and put so many people through so much hardship in order to have a depot at this site in Wigan. I cannot conceive that there is not another place to put the depot that would not go through my constituency and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale West and the hon. Member for Warrington North in the manner proposed. Unfortunately, when something such as this happens on my patch, it brings into question the value of engineering, design clarity and other parts of the project that I do not know about. It may well be that the line was designed before Crewe station was upgraded and that, therefore, the necessity for it has diminished.

I accept—I should have said this earlier—that the final position on the route is still out for consultation and the debate is timely for that reason. I accept that the Government have not made a final decision on the matter, which is why the hon. Member for Warrington North and I—and other colleagues—are so keen for this to be done.

Perhaps the Minister could respond by just confirming that there is no decision that the line to Scotland will necessarily go north out of Warrington when the time comes for phase 3, which could, in any event, be in 50 or 60 years, and that is not the case that we are having to spend £1 billion to situate a depot. Perhaps he could also quantify the benefits, if he is able to, in terms of revenue and other benefits that were mentioned to me in a written answer, which implied that £1 billion worth of benefits would accrue.

In summary, this is a good news debate, because I believe that I have found a way of saving the Government £1 billion. We will come in with an under-run on HS2 and we will all be heroes, and my colleague and I can go back to Warrington happy.

4.10 pm

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) and to the Minister for allowing me to participate in this debate, not least because I applied for it and somehow it ended up in his name—strange are the ways of the Table Office. Nevertheless, we are both here because although we may have political differences on a number of issues, even perhaps on some aspects of HS2, we are united in the belief that this initial proposed route around Warrington is both bad for the town and, increasingly, economically unjustifiable.

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In the time allowed to me, I cannot deal with every issue, but this route will inflict huge disturbance and environmental damage on my constituency. It is already inflicting housing blight and it will, I believe, lead to economic damage in the villages affected, rather than prosperity. All of that arises from the perverse decision to send the route to join the west coast main line north of Warrington, rather than north of Crewe. I think the case for that has to come under increasing scrutiny, particularly in view of the damage it will inflict, and I do not believe that the figures stack up. In that respect, I am very grateful to my constituent, Mr Alan Debenham, for the detailed work he has done on the figures, and to the Culcheth and District Rail Action Group and the Rixton-with-Glazebrook HS2 Action Group for the information that they have supplied to me.

The spur, as we call it, is estimated to cost about £1 billion. Originally, in 2013, HS2 Ltd said that it would cost £800 million, as opposed to the £750 million cost of joining the west coast line north of Crewe. In fact, even those figures need to be scrutinised carefully, because that is a cost of £22.9 million per kilometre. That is only 28.6% of the average cost of the line elsewhere, despite the fact that a viaduct has to be built over the ship canal, as well as a new link at Lymm and bridges over the motorways. It is hardly believable. Mr Debenham has estimated that even if we take out the cost of building new stations on the line elsewhere and tunnels, it still only comes out at 40% of the average cost of building the rest of the line. I urge the Minister to scrutinise those figures very carefully indeed.

Attempts to get more details on the economic cost of the line have failed, but it is very clear from parliamentary answers to me that none of the case takes into account the economic cost to the villages around Warrington. For some, that is quite severe. The line will go through the Taylor business park, which is actually in the parish of Croft but just outside Culcheth, with a loss of 500 jobs. There will be a consequent loss of jobs among businesses in Culcheth that depend on trade from the business park, and even more jobs will be lost, because three of the main routes out of the village—the routes that lead into Warrington—are going to have to be closed during construction.

We saw recently what happened when only one route was closed: businesses lost an awful lot of trade and some closed during and after the closure of the road. The Minister has to understand that businesses in Culcheth not only serve the village, but attract a lot of people from outside to do their shopping or to come and eat there. My two favourite eateries, the Raj and the China Rose, for instance, attract people from outside the village as well as a clientele from within it. The Black Swan in Hollins Green, which is an excellent pub, if the Minister is ever passing, brings people into the village because of events that it puts on, such as farmers’ markets. The estimate for the loss of business rates from the business park is more than £635,000 per annum. The economic loss to Culcheth, including lost salaries and wages, is estimated at £10.2 million per annum. None of those are included in the costings for the line.

The environmental impact is also very serious. Rixton-with-Glazebrook will see a big viaduct and raised embankments going through the villages, cutting one half of the parish off from the other. The village of

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Hollins Green, which is an ancient village, will be dominated by the viaduct, and the network of footpaths around Hollins Green will be destroyed. They, too, bring people in from outside the village. I well remember opening—if you can open them, Mr Hollobone—the boards that first set up the maps for those. The Culcheth linear park will be destroyed. Ironically, in the consultation, it is down as a “dismantled railway” line—well, it used to be, but it is not now. It is a park with plant and tree conservation programmes, access for the disabled, and routes for walkers and riders. Those facilities cannot be replicated elsewhere in the village, and there is no attempt to calculate the cost to public health and the consequent cost to the public purse from getting rid of these facilities. It is ironic that at a time that we are all being encouraged to walk more, ways of doing that around the area will be destroyed.

I also urge the Minister to look carefully at the idea of building a big viaduct in an area of high winds. The Thelwall viaduct on the M6 frequently has speed limits on it and sometimes has to be closed because of the high winds in the area. No one seems to have taken account of that in the engineering.

Most serious of all is the blight on property that is now affecting the villages. Parliamentary answers that I have received said blithely that there would be 21 properties demolished, only four of which would be residential, and three would be at risk of demolition. In fact, the situation is much worse than that. In Rixton-with-Glazebrook, 505 properties will be within 500 metres of the line. If the Minister knows anyone who wants to buy a house in a village with a great big viaduct going through it, I am sure that people will be delighted to hear from him. In Culcheth, the total is 947 properties. Many of those do not qualify for the exceptional hardship scheme. They are not owned by wealthy people, but by people who have struggled and sacrificed to buy their own home, and who now see buyers walking away. We also see stories of people being refused mortgages because of the uncertainty about the route. In total, if we look at the PricewaterhouseCoopers report on the property bond and the loss of values, it is estimated that even a 10% drop in property prices in Culcheth wipes £23 million off the value of property in the area, and that is at today’s prices.

As one gentleman said to me, there might be a point if we were gaining elsewhere—it happened to be someone who lived very close to the proposed line—but we are not. This spur, as the hon. Member for Warrington South has shown, does not actually seem to benefit anyone. In fact, building the line in that way disadvantages the whole of the west of the region, because it takes the HS2 line away from it, and I think Liverpool is already making its case about that. I admire Manchester’s lobbying skills, but the region is not all about Manchester. We need to ensure that other places benefit as well.

The Minister and his colleagues have a chance to put this right, because the Higgins report proposes a transport hub at Crewe, and part of the reason for not joining the line north of Crewe was the work that would have to be done to Crewe station. If it is being done anyway, he has a real chance to look again at these proposals to ensure that we get the line joining the west coast main line north of Crewe and that that line is upgraded, so that then we can connect to Liverpool, Warrington and many of the other towns and cities around the route as

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well. If he does that, he will not only be avoiding a loss of habitat, environmental destruction and economic problems in my constituency, but providing a better service to the region as a whole and saving the Government probably £1 billion and, as I have said to my colleagues, any future Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer £1 billion as well, so I hope that he does the right thing and gets it right for Warrington.

4.20 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate the hon. Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) on applying for this debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) on speaking first in it. For Warrington, there is no north-south divide as far as HS2 is concerned, but HS2 itself does address the very big issue of the north-south divide as far as our country is concerned. There is very good cross-party agreement on that point, but I will not rehearse the arguments, as they have already been well rehearsed on the Floor of the House and in Committee.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced details of the route for phase 2 of HS2, to Leeds and Manchester, and with intermediate stations at Manchester airport, the east midlands and Sheffield. We have consulted on that route and received more than 10,000 responses, including one from my hon. Friend, all of which are being carefully analysed. Let me be clear. No decisions have yet been taken on the route or station options. The Secretary of State has committed to respond to the phase 2 consultation by the end of the year, and that remains his intention. He will make an announcement in the autumn.

My hon. Friend has expressed concerns, as has the hon. Lady, that Warrington will lose out from HS2. I understand and share his view that we should continue to develop our understanding of the local economic impacts of HS2. Although we do not have a full estimate of the economic benefits of the section of the high-speed line that is limited to the Warrington area, I can tell him that under our current plans, Warrington will, under phase 1, be served by high-speed trains running on the dedicated HS2 line to Handsacre and then on the classic rail network to Warrington Bank Quay from day one of HS2 starting operations.

Helen Jones: The Minister has been very generous, but may I point out to him that Warrington already has one train an hour both to Scotland and to London? Under these proposals, it may not get that many services.

Mr Goodwill: Certainly the intention is to have comparable or better services following HS2, but given that we are in the middle of the consultation, things may well start to gel a little more before the end of the year.

When phase 2 opens, it will be possible to travel more quickly—by 30 minutes—between London and Warrington; and from 2036, three years after phase 2 opens, the transport user benefits to the region of trips starting in the north-west will be equivalent to roughly £342 million every year. HS2 Ltd’s analysis of the mainline connection at Golborne suggests that it could provide benefits in

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the order of £1.2 billion and revenue of about £600 million. Also, HS2 will free up space for additional commuter, regional and freight services on our main north-south lines, including the west coast main line. Passengers and businesses in Warrington will be well placed to take advantage of those benefits.

I know that my hon. Friend is concerned about the impact on local and regional services from Warrington and the potential loss of direct services to London. Under the train service specification that we have published for HS2, there will be one train an hour between London and Warrington. The TSS is not a train service proposal as such, but has merely been adopted for demand-modelling purposes as part of the economic case for HS2.

The train service pattern across the rail network that will operate from the launch of high-speed services in 2026 will be developed iteratively over the next decade and beyond, in consultation with key stakeholders. It is too early to make detailed commitments about how the rail network will operate when HS2 services start, but one of the key aims for future service patterns is that all towns or cities that currently have a direct service to London will retain broadly comparable or better services once HS2 is completed.

Regarding the loss of Taylor business park and the damaging economic impact of HS2, I note what my hon. Friend and the hon. Lady have said about the potential effect on that business park. We are mindful of the impacts that HS2 could have on businesses, and HS2 Ltd will work with local stakeholders to ensure that unwanted impacts are kept to a minimum, including through potential route refinements where required. We have received many representations about the impact of our proposals on the Taylor business park and are considering them carefully alongside other consultation responses.

Our consultation is a genuine attempt to learn more about the proposed route’s likely impacts and benefits, and there is potential for it to change as a result of the consultation. Indeed, this afternoon’s debate is an important part of the dialogue that is taking place between Ministers and HS2 on one side and local representatives and residents on the other. I hope that we can bridge that divide. My goal is to have everyone on the same side if possible.

From the point at which a confirmed route was announced, we began a detailed assessment of its impact and we will seek to mitigate the most adverse impacts, including visual intrusion and noise, through our design work. In doing so, we will keep local community representatives informed of our plans and seek their input on how to achieve the best outcomes for local people. It is worth remembering that in order to obtain the powers needed to build the railway, via a further hybrid Bill, we will need to demonstrate that we have done all that we reasonably could to understand and manage its impacts.

My hon. Friend mentioned Scotland. He is absolutely right. No decisions have been taken yet on whether there will be a high-speed link to Scotland. A bilateral working group with the Scottish Government is working to consider options for improving rail links to Scotland. The results will be announced in due course. I think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer put his oar in as well, with a suggestion that HS3 might be an east-west link connecting Yorkshire to Lancashire.

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I can understand why people might want to travel from Lancashire to Yorkshire but possibly not in the opposite direction.

David Mowat: Given that the decision has not been taken, as the Minister has just confirmed, about how we will get to Scotland eventually, will he accept that to build £1 billion-worth of line north of Manchester on the west coast risks it being obsolete if the decision is taken to go up from the east coast?

Mr Goodwill: My hon. Friend makes a very valid point indeed, and certainly that is one of the points that we are taking into consideration.

In terms of the additional station at Crewe or Warrington Bank Quay, the consultation exercise was designed to bring in a range of ideas, and I welcome the responses that we have received, including those from the hon. Members who have spoken today. I can confirm that we are carefully considering the response from my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South alongside those from other consultees. He will be aware that Sir David Higgins, the chairman of HS2 Ltd, has recommended that to deliver benefits to the north more quickly, we could accelerate the building of the line to Crewe before the rest of phase 2 and build a new station to receive HS2 services from 2027. We can see potential benefits from doing that, but to allow us to consider it fully, the Secretary of State has asked HS2 Ltd to undertake more detailed work, so that we can consider the suggestion very carefully, as part of the response that he will make to the phase 2 consultation later this year.

In conclusion, we and HS2 Ltd are working hard to implement a scheme that will not only bring the widest possible benefits to the country, but help to bring all those who would be affected together. HS2 Ltd has been taking forward an extensive engagement programme in Warrington involving local councillors, action groups and other stakeholders in the area. That includes briefing sessions for elected members at Warrington town hall. I understand that my hon. Friend attended the last of those sessions in June. Was the hon. Lady there as well?

Helen Jones: Yes.

Mr Goodwill: She was. That engagement will continue as we develop our plans for HS2. The Government are keen to get as many views as possible to ensure that the phase 2 route of HS2 will be the best that it can be. We want, as far as possible, to reduce the impacts on people and the environment, so that not only will the towns and cities in the midlands and the north get the connections that they need to thrive, but HS2 will be taken forward in such a way that it realises the full benefits of the scheme for the country as a whole.

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): We now move on to another important debate, which is on the Massereene barracks shooting in 2009.

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Massereene Barracks Shooting 2009

4.29 pm

Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): For my constituents Mehmet Azimkar and Geraldine Ferguson, the horrific murder of Fusilier Drummer Lee Rigby would have been painfully reminiscent of the gunning down of two other unarmed young soldiers outside their barracks five years ago. Although Lee Rigby’s killers have been caught and, rightly, imprisoned for life, the murderers of Sapper Cengiz Patrick Azimkar and Sapper Mark Quinsey are still out there. It is clear to me, as it is to this family and their supporters, that justice is yet to be found in this case. Public attention may have drifted, but the families remember.

I stand here today to raise unanswered questions that have arisen from the investigation into the murders outside the Massereene Barracks in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Saturday 7 March 2009. Sapper Patrick Azimkar grew up in Wood Green in London. He was the son of a Turkish Cypriot builder and a mother of both Catholic and Protestant heritage. Patrick avoided the temptations by which many young men in my constituency are led astray. At first, he pursued his talents as a young footballer, and he even tried out for his local team, Tottenham Hotspur. Instead of pursuing a football career, however, he signed up to the armed forces.

Patrick’s family have said that he found a sense of purpose and direction from becoming a soldier. His fellow soldiers talk of his sense of fun, his energy, his motivation and his ambition. Patrick joined 25 Field Squadron, 38 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers, and he served in Kenya before being posted to his regiment’s permanent base in Northern Ireland. When he died aged only 21, Patrick was just hours from flying out to Afghanistan to serve in southern Helmand.

Sapper Mark Quinsey, who was 23 when he died, was Patrick’s colleague and friend. He came from Birmingham and joined the Army at the age of 19. He had recently qualified as an electrician at the Royal School of Military Engineering. He was survived by his mother, father and loving sister. His mother, Pamela Brankin, sadly died last year, having never recovered from the loss of her son.

Operation Banner, under which the UK deploys troops in Northern Ireland, ended in July 2007. The soldiers were, therefore, based in Northern Ireland with their regiment on only a temporary basis before being deployed overseas. To be clear, they were not deployed within Northern Ireland. On a Saturday evening, the two ordinary young men, who had no interest or involvement in the politics of Northern Ireland, were gunned down in a volley of bullets by two gunmen clad in balaclavas and using assault rifles, in a barbaric attack that was later claimed by the Real IRA.

The soldiers were off duty and unarmed. They were leaving their barracks for a moment to collect a pizza, before flying out to join their fellow soldiers on deployment in Afghanistan. The gunmen showed a cold, calculated ruthlessness in the murder, deliberately shooting the young men a second time even when they lay on the ground. Six other men, including the two pizza delivery men, three other soldiers and a guardsman, were also targeted, and three were severely wounded in the attack.

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Those watching CCTV footage of the killing noted that Sapper Azimkar pushed a fellow soldier to the ground to save him, before being shot himself.

I am no expert on Northern Ireland; I represent the concerns of constituents in London. Although the conflict in the region is a large and important part of the United Kingdom’s history, it feels remote from my constituents. However, it has touched the life of a family in my constituency. We must remember that the Real IRA murdered the young men years after the Good Friday agreement was signed and troops were removed from Northern Ireland’s streets. Although we wish for enduring peace in Northern Ireland, it must not be achieved at the cost of justice for such families.

The first issue I would like to raise concerns security at the base. At the time of the murder of Patrick and Mark, and the attempted murder of six other young men, Northern Ireland was at its highest security level for more than a decade. Following thwarted attacks on police officers and police headquarters, special branch had issued warnings of an imminent attack. Only the previous week, the level of threat had been raised from substantial to severe, and all serving police officers had returned to wearing flak jackets on a regular basis. There are, therefore, questions surrounding the level of security at the base.

Why was the base protected by one guardsman provided by the devolved Northern Ireland Security Guard Service—a security service armed only with pistols—rather than by the soldiers themselves? The lone civilian guardsman on duty was significantly outgunned and outnumbered, and he dived for cover rather than firing back at the terrorists. Why has the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service not been held to account for its failure to protect the soldiers? Did the service understand the increased risk? What measures had it taken to protect the base in the light of the heightened threat level?

Security at the base appears to have been lax. Soldiers had formed a routine of ordering fast food to the barracks gates, and they made approximately 20 orders a week from local fast food outlets. The barracks are close to the main road, so all that the killers had to do was to lay in wait for the young men as they collected the food. Why, during a heightened security alert, were young recruits allowed to walk out of the base, unarmed but highly visible in their Army desert fatigues, to collect pizzas from outside the entrance?

The Army came to the decision that convening a service inquiry would serve no useful purpose because there were no new lessons to be learned. Patrick’s parents feel that the decision to use civilians on security was politically motivated, with the aim of making the Army’s presence less visible. They query the effectiveness of a security guard, who was probably on minimum wage, protecting the base when a soldier on duty protecting his friends and colleagues might have been able to do more. The family are concerned that the debate over Army security focused too much on the political concerns in Northern Ireland, and that effective security at the base was sacrificed to appease local politicians’ concerns.

I understand that following the attack, the number of Northern Ireland Security Guard Service personnel was increased, and that they were issued with body armour,

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helmets and long-barrelled weapons in place of sidearms. That is a step in the right direction, but it was taken far too late.

Lady Hermon (North Down) (Ind): As a public representative from a Northern Ireland constituency—although the Massereene massacre, as it has become known, did not happen in my constituency—may I reassure the right hon. Gentleman and other Members of the House that Catholics, Protestants and those of no faith came out in their hundreds and hundreds to demonstrate against the murder of the two young soldiers? We were greatly upset, and it was not politically motivated from the Unionist community, I can assure him.

Mr Lammy: The family has drawn some comfort from the warmth of feeling that they have received from the community. The hon. Lady’s comments are well made.

The second issue that I would like to raise is the quality of the prosecution’s case during the subsequent trials. The work carried out by Forensic Science Northern Ireland and crime scene officers was incredibly poor. The collection of evidence was especially sloppy, and the performance of forensic experts in the witness box was woeful.

Two men, Brian Shivers and Colin Duffy, were prosecuted for the murders. Colin Duffy is a dissident republican who had previously been linked to the murder of another soldier, John Lyness, in 1995, and the murders of two police constables in 1997. His DNA was found on a seatbelt buckle and in the tip of a latex glove in the burned-out getaway car that was used in the attack. He was surely involved. Nevertheless, he was acquitted at trial. Since then, he has been arrested in connection with the murder of prison officer David Black and charged with terrorism offences. Brian Shivers aided and abetted the murders by setting fire to the getaway car. He was originally found guilty of the murders and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Dr William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): This ghastly incident happened in my constituency. I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the families that my constituents continue to express their love and support for the families who have gone through this tragedy.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Mr Shivers, who is one of my next door neighbours. He told the court that he had only a few months to live. Those few months seem to have greatly increased, for he is still running around the town, seemingly in the full bloom of health. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that no stone should be left unturned until those who perpetrated this ghastly, brutal murder are brought to justice? That is the only thing the people in my constituency will support. Justice must be done.

Mr Lammy: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way he put his remarks. I know the family have drawn some comfort from the strength of feeling in the community that justice must be done. In 2013, the conviction of Shivers was overturned by Northern Ireland’s appeal court, and he was freed following a retrial. He claimed that he had been set up and that the forensic evidence had been planted.

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Forensic Science Northern Ireland and the crime scene officers made a number of careless mistakes that undermined the prosecution’s case. The getaway car was found, partly burned, containing bullets of the calibre used in the attack, two mobile phones, balaclavas, a camouflage holdall and matchsticks. DNA evidence was found on the matchsticks, in the car and on the phones. One of the phones was found to have received an answerphone message congratulating the murderers on their work.

David Simpson (Upper Bann) (DUP): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. He has mentioned Mr Colin Duffy, who is from my constituency. He is a well known, ranked republican. He is well known to security forces and, quite frankly, is as guilty as sin. Unfortunately, the evidence was not there in its fullness to convict. The right hon. Gentleman has raised a number of issues. Yes, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, but I assure the family and the right hon. Gentleman that we, as Members of this House, pay tribute to every member of the Crown services from the mainland who ever served in Northern Ireland and paid the supreme sacrifice.

Mr Lammy: The House has heard those remarks and the manner in which they were made.

The crime scene officers did not remove the matches from the car until four days after the attack. The two matches found on the back seat of the Vauxhall Cavalier were then placed in the same bag, which increased the possibility of cross-contamination of DNA and assisted the defence in attacking the forensic evidence at the trial. The half-rear seat was folded down over the matches by the crime scene investigator, potentially transferring DNA.

The forensic experts also failed to change gloves between internal and external examination of one of the phones. They rightly understood that the possibility of transferring DNA via the gloves was miniscule, but by failing to change their gloves they showed naivety about building an airtight case that they could defend in court. Indeed, their evidence in the witness box was lamentably poor. One crime scene investigator even insisted on oath that he was not in the car; however, his DNA had been found inside. Brian Shivers did not even have to give an account of why his DNA was in the car; instead, he used his right to remain silent. The defence exploited those loopholes and, as a result, Brian Shivers walked free.

Others connected to the murder by DNA—Dominic McGlinchey Jr. and Declan McGlinchey—have not even faced charges. Only one person has been successfully convicted in connection with the murders of Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey. In November 2013, Old Bailey bomber Marian McGlinchey pleaded guilty to providing the mobile phone used to claim responsibility for the Real IRA murders of the two soldiers. She received only a suspended sentence and has never revealed to whom she supplied the mobile phone.

The third issue is the process of justice in Northern Ireland. No jury has ever looked at the evidence against Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers. It appears to the families of the victims that Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey received a lower level of justice simply because they were killed in Northern Ireland rather than elsewhere in

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the UK. They rightly ask whether the outcome might have been different if 12 ordinary members of the public had seen the evidence.

Mr Justice Hart presided over the first trial in 2011 and Mr Justice Deeny presided over the retrial last year. The family strongly suspect that Mr Justice Hart, a man as human as any of us, may have felt intimidated or afraid to draw a guilty verdict against Colin Duffy, who has a far-reaching, powerful reputation in Northern Ireland as a terrorist. It was Mr Justice Hart’s last case before retirement and the family fear that, in the twilight of his career, he was worried about his security when he no longer had all the protections afforded to a judge. The families of murder victims should be able to trust the courts that pursue the murderers. Such questions would not even have to be raised if a jury had tried the case.

Lady Hermon: I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for taking a second intervention from me. During the appalling bloodshed of more than 30 years of troubles in Northern Ireland, the legal profession and the judges suffered just like the rest of the community. A number of them were murdered or intimidated, and a number of family members were also murdered or intimidated. I have to defend the integrity, honesty and courage of every single judge in Northern Ireland, including those who intend to retire, and I cannot possibly let that go without a remark.

Mr Lammy: I understand why the hon. Lady wants to make those remarks, but she will understand the parents’ desire to put this on the record and my responsibility as their Member of Parliament to make it absolutely clear that jury trials are fundamental to the nature of our democracy. The departure of jury trials in Northern Ireland to this day is something that this House should continue to revisit. We are all frail human beings, whatever our religious persuasion.

In the rest of the UK, jury trials for murder are the norm. Diplock trials were introduced in Northern Ireland in 1973 for serious criminal cases connected with the troubles. Ostensibly a temporary measure, such trials suspended the right to trial by jury in favour of a single judge. They were officially abolished in Northern Ireland in 2007, but single-judge trials continue to this day.

Sixteen years on from the Good Friday agreement, is it not time to restore the primacy of the jury and use technological advancements and other powers to ensure that jury members are protected? Could we not find other ways to try to ensure a more just system for victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland? Those who might argue that a jury’s safety and integrity cannot be guaranteed in County Antrim should consider why we should distinguish between a defendant with gangland connections in London and the accused who stands trial in Northern Ireland.

I asked the Prime Minister at Prime Minister’s questions earlier this year about the ongoing use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland. He told me that the provisions are up for renewal in 2015. Those who look to renew the use of such trials should take note of the impact on the victims’ families, as in this case. The considerations of a family who feel that their son received a lesser justice because he was not killed on the mainland should and must be taken into account when deciding whether to

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exercise such a provision. Trials by jury are fair, efficient and effective. A jury is an integral and indispensable part of the criminal justice system, and I urge the Government to bear that in mind when the use of such trials is reconsidered next year.

I am humbled by the strength and dignity that my constituents Mehmet Azimkar and Geraldine Ferguson have shown over the past five years while pursuing answers to those questions. This couple, who have experienced and endured sorrow and loss with true fortitude and with such dignity, persevered in ensuring that their voices are heard by the very highest levels in Government, the judiciary and the Army. I thank on their behalf the many people who have supported them over the past five years, including: their friends and families for their unending love and support; Lee Burton, the family’s Army visiting officer; the Police Service of Northern Ireland; the people of Antrim town who, as we have heard, are committed to keeping Patrick and Mark’s memories alive; and Kevin Hart of the Royal British Legion’s independent inquest advice service, whose unstinting support made it possible for the family’s voices to be heard. Of course, I also mention Patrick’s brother.

Parents can never be expected to find peace when their son has been taken from them, but the families of Sapper Azimkar and Sapper Quinsey have endured suffering and heartbreak that should have been avoided. I hope that the Government will hear their voices and help them, five years on, to bring some sense of closure.

4.49 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Dr Andrew Murrison): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I commend the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy) on securing this important debate.

I begin by offering my sincere condolences to the families of both Sapper Patrick Azimkar and Sapper Mark Quinsey. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland met Patrick’s parents recently. I know that they are taking a close interest in today’s proceedings, and that my right hon. Friend was deeply moved by the account that they gave. Their personal strength and dignity at this difficult time is remarkable. Five years on, I am sure that the pain that they have suffered will not be erased. It is a particularly cruel irony that two fine young men should be struck down on home soil just as they were preparing to serve their country in Helmand.

Before I address the points raised in the right hon. Gentleman’s speech, I assure the House that this Government take the threat posed by terrorists extremely seriously. Northern Ireland-related terrorism is a tier 1 risk in the national security strategy, meaning that it is of the highest priority to this Government, as it was to the Government in which the right hon. Gentleman served. Five years after the Massereene shootings, the threat level remains at “severe”. However, progress has been made, as I am sure many of the hon. Members here will attest. As a result of the sterling and often unsung work of the Police Service of Northern Ireland

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and MI5, working in close co-operation with police in the Republic of Ireland and others, lives are undoubtedly saved and the ill intent of violent criminals thwarted or mitigated.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Some of the names of those involved in the murder have been mentioned. David Jordan, who is in prison in the Republic, has also been mentioned. A European arrest warrant has been issued for him on his release from prison. Can the Minister confirm that all of those allegedly involved in these murders, in the Republic of Ireland or wherever they may be, will be brought to justice?

Dr Murrison: That is clearly the firm intent of both the Westminster Government and the Northern Ireland Executive. Violent terrorists, wherever they are, must be called to account. I know that all the agencies that I have mentioned, and others, are bent on ensuring that such wicked individuals are brought to account and face the full rigour of the law, wherever they are.

Lady Hermon: I am most grateful to the Minister for allowing me to intervene. Can he please give a categorical assurance that none of those suspected of involvement in the murder of those two courageous young British soldiers at Massereene are sitting with a letter, familiarly referred to as a comfort letter, signed by the Northern Ireland Office and sent to on-the-runs?

Dr Murrison: Given that they have faced trial, one must assume that they are not. However, I cannot tell the hon. Lady whether those names appear on the list of 200 people issued with such letters. Given that they have faced trial, it seems unlikely to me.

Before I come to the burden of my response to the right hon. Gentleman’s points—

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Will the Minister give way?

Dr Murrison: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have only a few minutes to answer the right hon. Gentleman’s points, so I would like to crack on.

It must be understood that those who continue to favour violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland are few in number. Those individuals are acting in defiance of the clear will of the people of Ireland, both north and south, and holding democracy, decency and the rule of law in contempt.

Turning to the important issue of barracks security, many of the points that the right hon. Gentleman raised in his speech are the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Executive under the devolved settlement. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on areas for which I do not have direct responsibility. However, responsibility for the armed forces is not devolved, so I will start by saying that the Government take the safety of military personnel very seriously indeed. Security measures for members of the armed forces are made and set in accordance with a specific threat level relating to them, which is kept under regular review.

In Northern Ireland, armed guarding and security is undertaken by the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service, which consists of Ministry of Defence employees specifically trained for the job. That is similar to guarding

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provision in the rest of the UK, and it is not accurate to say that the use of civilian MOD employees results in an inferior service to what would be provided by soldiers.

Security measures at Massereene barracks on the night of the incident were set and implemented in accordance with the threat level pertaining to the Army at that time. At the time of the murders of Sapper Azimkar and Sapper Quinsey, those guarding the barracks carried pistols. I will return to that point in a minute. Security guidance for personnel visiting Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has been reviewed since the incident; there has also been a security review at all establishments in Northern Ireland, as the right hon. Gentleman would expect. It has led to the introduction of a number of measures in order to match the increased sector-specific threat assessment following the attack, including the introduction of long-barrelled weapons for the NISGS. Where required, security infrastructure improvements have also been made to barracks in Northern Ireland.

Although the Army originally intended to hold a service inquiry to examine events leading up to the incident, it was quite properly put on hold pending criminal investigations, following which it was decided that as a result of the enhanced security measures that had been put in place, no further lessons of consequence could be learned. However, in accordance with normal practice, a learning account exercise was undertaken. It recommended a number of further security measures, such as arming the NISGS with rifles.

An assurance inspection was carried out in June 2012 at Massereene, which was deemed satisfactory. The barracks were then sold in 2013 to Randox Laboratories Ltd, which I believe is relevant in this case. In 2013, the director of personnel services for the Army judged that as a result of the enhanced security measures, the closure of the barracks, the two PSNI investigations and the passage of time, a service inquiry, whose purpose would be to learn lessons and not to apportion blame, would not add materially, a view endorsed by the Adjutant-General and noted by the then Minister of State for the Armed Forces. I understand that the families have been invited to meet to discuss the reasons behind the Army’s decision. I feel that the families may find it useful to have that meeting, and the offer remains open to them.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to how the investigation of the Massereene shootings was carried out. I emphasise that I cannot comment authoritatively on matters devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive. Justice is devolved, and with it the PSNI and Forensic Science Northern Ireland. However, I know that the PSNI continues to investigate the murders of both men at Massereene barracks, and the cases are still open. Both the PSNI and this Government share the families’ frustration that no one has yet been brought to book for that heinous attack. It is my sincere hope and expectation that justice will ultimately be brought to bear in this case.

I cannot comment on the specific concerns raised in connection with the investigation and how it was conducted or discuss specific concerns about forensics, as it could

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affect any future investigation. However, it is my understanding that the senior investigating officer tasked to the case has met with Patrick Azimkar’s parents to discuss their concerns in detail. Furthermore, as a result of the judgment by Justice Deeny in the second trial, both the PSNI and Forensic Science NI conducted a review to examine the issues raised. I am assured that all the recommendations contained in the reviews have been implemented.

I am also aware of the concerns raised by the Azimkar family about the trials, re-trial and acquittal in the case, but I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman, as a lawyer, will agree with the proposition that judicial independence is fundamental to criminal justice. Judges must be free to act without pressure, threat or interference. In light of that, it would not be appropriate for me to comment on either the judicial decision or the process, and “Erskine May” specifically discourages me from doing so, but I too remain disappointed and dismayed that no one has yet been made accountable for those appalling crimes. I want convictions, and very few in Northern Ireland want terrorists to get away with their barbarity. It is cause for regret that although Northern Ireland has moved on, its public face is still marred by its association with violence.

I will turn briefly to the use of non-jury trials in Northern Ireland, an important point raised by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech. As he knows, there is now no system of Diplock courts in Northern Ireland, as they were abolished in 2007. What we have in Northern Ireland is a system that allows for non-jury trials in specific circumstances where it is deemed necessary to secure a fair trial. The decision is not taken lightly, and it is made by the Director of Public Prosecutions in Northern Ireland based on the facts of the case in question. That was the case with the trial of those accused in relation to the Massereene shootings.

Although there is rightly a general presumption in favour of a jury trial, the non-jury system is generally recognised as removing the risk of perverse verdicts by reason of intimidation or bias. Furthermore, non-jury trials have the advantage of a written judgment explaining the reasons for conviction or acquittal and are an effective way of securing a fair trial for all parties and mitigating the risk of intimidation or subversion of the judicial process. However, the current non-jury trial provisions are due to expire in July 2015, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will review the current provisions in the coming months.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the support being provided to the families—

Mr Philip Hollobone (in the Chair): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister. I thank all Members who have attended this important debate.

5 pm

Sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(13)).