Though Business Minister Claire Perry said, glibly, that their skills could transfer to other employers, such as the Siemens green energy plant in Hull, these are proud workers who are steeped in aviation and the defence sectors – their know-how epitomises Yorkshire industry’s past, present and future.
It is their life, a point that Ms Perry did not acknowledge when she was forced to make an emergency statement to Parliament after BAE Systems announced that 2,000 staff across the country faced redundancy because of “internal restructuring” and “normal business practices”.
For, while those concerned will welcome the promise of jobs fairs and specialist advice from government agencies, the unconvincing Minister might care to challenge the statement issued by BAE Systems and remind the firm that it enjoys a near monopoly on Government defence contracts and that it should think again – jobs should only be lost as a last resort. Ministers should be utilising their influence, and seeing if potential orders can be brought forward, rather than appearing to be so defeatist.
To his credit Haltemprice and Howden MP David Davis – together with Labour’s Alan Johnson – campaigned valiantly to secure new orders for the Brough site. The Brexit Secretary’s expertise and insight must be utilised.
And, with Business Secretary Greg Clark listening to the Commons exchanges, the Government needs to ask itself this question: Can Britain afford to lose such skills at this critical juncture?
The answer is a resounding no. Not only does the BAE workforce include brilliant academics, but individuals whose skills will be irreplaceable if such expertise is lost to the nation as the UK’s industrial strategy is refined to meet current challenges.