A Yorkshire MP says she and others will continue to lobby the Government to help save 400 threatened BAE Systems jobs in the East Riding after the Prime Minister appeared to rule out making an early order of its Hawk T1 aircraft.
In a letter to Diana Johson and Andrew Percy, MPs for Hull North and Brigg and Goole respectively, Theresa May said a decision about replacing the Hawk T1 did not need to be made for “many years”.
She was responding to a cross-party letter co-ordinated by the two MPs, and signed by 140 of their colleagues, after the announcement that BAE was planning to cut nearly 2,000 skilled manufacturing jobs, including 400 at its Brough base.
They urged the Government to “look at all options” to help safeguard the jobs, including bringing forward orders to provide extra work for BAE, such as replacing the Red Arrows’ ageing fleet of Hawks.
The MPs warned that if Britain waits until the scheduled retirement date of 2030 to replace the Red Arrows’ jets, then the UK may have lost the ability to build a replacement. Without new orders, BAE’s Hawk production is due to close in 2019.
The Prime Minister wrote: “I appreciate your concerns regarding the Red Arrows and would like to reassure you that the current fleet will not go out of service until 2030. As such, we do not need to take a decision about the replacement of the Hawk T1 aircraft for many years to come.
I can reassure you that UK manufacturing remains a priority for the Government and is a principal focus of our industrial strategy.Prime Minister Theresa May, in a letter to MPs
“I have asked Harriet Baldwin, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and Minister for Defence Procurement, to set out the situation for you all in more detail.
“I can reassure you that UK manufacturing remains a priority for the Government and is a principal focus of our industrial strategy.”
Around 40 per cent of a new Hawk is manufactured at BAE’s site at Brough and the rest in Lancashire.
Ms Johnson said the scheduled retirement date to replace the Red Arrows’ jets was initially thought to be 2020, before the Government later said it was not until 2030.
She said: “I am not sure how that happened, I wonder whether because the MoD has problems with their budget they are pushing as many things as they can for as long as possible. We are all a bit taken aback by the push-back to 2030.
“We have an ageing range of Hawks, we have the Red Arrows who are supposed to be ambassadors for this country and try to persuade other countries to buy Hawks.
“I would expect the Red Arrows to be flying the latest planes to show the wonderful British aeronautical engineering skills, not flying really old planes and hoping they keep flying until 2030.”
Ms Johnson said the Defence Select Committee would want to examine the pushing back of the replacement date to 2030 and that she and local groups would continue to make the argument for keeping the jobs in Brough.
She said: “If there are opportunities to work across party, we had Tories who signed the letter to the PM, it is an issue a lot of MPs feel strongly about.
“There are opportunities to engage with Harriet Baldwin, to look again at how they have made this decision. I don’t think this is the end of it.”