HC Deb 29 November 2001 vol 375 cc1087-9
2. Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale, East)

What action she is taking to assist the aviation industry following the 11 September terrorist attacks. [16470]

13. Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly)

If she will make a statement on the progress which has been made in providing support to the aerospace and airline industries since 11 September. [16482]

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt)

This Government were the first to underwrite insurance for UK airlines and service providers after 11 September to ensure that the airlines could continue flying. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport Local Government and the Regions is considering whether further aid should be offered to the UK airline industry. We have been in close contact with the aerospace industry since 11 September, and will continue to work with it to help deal with the impact of the terrorist attacks and to ensure a strong future for the industry.

Paul Goggins

My right hon. Friend will know that this has been a difficult week for the aviation industry in the north-west, with the announcement of further job losses at BAE Systems and at Airtours. May I draw her attention to the plight of 620 staff at FLS Aerospace at Manchester airport who undertake essential aircraft maintenance work? They were recently served with 90-day notices.

In welcoming the action that the Government are already taking, will my right hon. Friend join me in urging FLS to co-operate fully with the work force, Manchester Airport plc and other companies in striving to retain as many of these skilled jobs as possible?

Ms Hewitt

My hon. Friend is right to say that these are difficult times for the airline and aerospace industry. I share his dismay at the impact of the terrorist atrocity upon his constituents and others who work in the industry, particularly those at FLS Aerospace. I understand that the company is hoping to avoid compulsory redundancies. We shall do everything possible to work with it to ensure that as far as possible these highly skilled workers stay in employment. Where that is not possible, we will do everything that we can to ensure that workers who are made redundant get new jobs as quickly as possible.

Mr. David

I thank my right hon. Friend for her response. I am sure that she will share my concern about the fact that there have been 350 jobs losses announced at GE Aircraft Engine Services at Nantgarw near Caerphilly in south Wales. Will she say what discussions have taken place at a European level about possible support for the industry?

Ms Hewitt

I entirely share my hon. Friend's concern about the impact of the situation on his constituents and others at GEAES in south Wales. I understand that it is one of the world's leading companies in aero-engine repair and maintenance. I know that every help is being given in Wales to the company and its workers; my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Chancellor have both been in discussions with our counterparts in the European Community about what support should properly be given to the industry.

Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle)

Will the Secretary of State make a full statement on 1,000 jobs lost in my constituency this week at BAE Systems at Woodford? Will she comment on the further losses expected at Manchester airport, especially at FLS Aerospace and Airtours? How far are they due to 11 September, and what is she doing to ensure that the skills involved are not lost to the nation?

Ms Hewitt

The hon. Lady makes an extremely important point. We must all understand that the atrocity of 11 September and subsequent events have severely damaged the airline and aerospace industries. In north America, for example, there is a decline of 30 to 40 per cent. in passenger numbers; in Europe, the decline is between 10 and 20 per cent. We will continue to work with companies and affected workers to support them in every way that we can. However, I also stress to her that the aerospace industry in particular remains fundamentally strong. Despite the devastating job losses, particularly at British Aerospace, the longer-term future remains bright with new orders recently placed for Airbus, and Lockheed and its British partners securing the contract for the joint strike fighter. I am sure that she welcomes that as much as I do.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Does the Secretary of State realise that it is not just British Aerospace? The sudden announcement today by Rolls-Royce will lead to problems, particularly in the Derby area, where a huge number of job losses were confirmed this morning; I know that she will be aware of that. Will she have urgent talks with her colleagues at the Ministry of Defence to see if there is any way in which some of those announcements can be alleviated by looking at defence contracts? Will they consider whether the defence industry could have a beneficial impact on the aviation industry, particularly at this severe time?

Ms Hewitt

The announcement this morning of the job losses at Rolls-Royce is confirmation of an announcement made some weeks ago following the events of 11 September. We have already awarded £750.000 million to the east midlands taskforce, to help particularly with the appalling effect of those redundancies in Derby and Derbyshire. I have already had discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on those matters.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley)

Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a summit for the aviation industry and those who supply it with Is she aware of the job losses both in Lancashire and among suppliers? What hope can she give them of bringing forward orders such as those for large aircraft, which will bring the work back? Work on the joint strike fighter order is far away; we need work now if we are to continue in future.

Ms Hewitt

I am, of course, aware of the redundancies to which my hon. Friend referred. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and other colleagues have done everything that they can to strengthen security at airports and restore passenger confidence in air travel. Fundamentally, that is the best way to assist the industry right through the supply chain. Of course, my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy and I will continue to work very closely indeed with the aviation and aerospace industries to see how we can support them in both the short and longer term.