Skip to main content

Defence Aviation And Research Agency

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 4 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


When he last met the Secretary of State for Defence to discuss the progress of the Red Dragon Project at RAF St Athan; and if he will make a statement. [116422]

I welcome the fact that the construction of a new state-of-the-art repair and maintenance facility by the Defence and Aviation Repair Agency at its headquarters base in St. Athan is under way. The DARA development will also be the focus wider plans by the welsh Development Agency to develop a high-tech aerospace park at St. Athan. That leading-edge facility will secure and create around 4,000 new jobs.

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. I, too, am delighted to hear that the £80 million super-hangar that is being constructed in my constituency in the Vale of Glamorgan is well on schedule. However, when he next meets the Secretary of State for Defence, will he seek an assurance that during the construction of the hangar sufficient work is directed to DARA from the Ministry of Defence to maintain current manning levels? I fear that if that assurance is not forthcoming, a large number of highly skilled, highly paid jobs could be at risk over the next 12 to 18 months.

I should pay tribute to my hon. Friend. No one has worked harder to secure that development in his constituency. He is a model constituency MP and deserves to be re-elected with a resounding majority at the next election.

As for the matter that he raises, I am aware of his concerns, which he has discussed with several of my ministerial colleagues. I shall certainly bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. In saying that, I should also point out that Wales is currently doing very well out of defence industry contracts, including Oshkosh, General Dynamics and Cogent. The Red Dragon project in my hon. Friend's constituency is the icing on the cake.

Will the Minister actively support a strategy to make Wales a global aerospace centre of excellence, with projects such as Red Dragon in the south and related civil and military aerospace projects in north and mid-Wales, where our regional airport structure and manufacturing companies, such as the beleaguered KTH company, might be well suited?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good and important point. I re-emphasise what I said in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) about the Welsh Development Agency's development of the aerospace park project at St. Athan. That is central to what the hon. Gentleman wants to achieve. I am sure that, working together in partnership with the Government here in Westminster, a Labour Government in Cardiff and the WDA, we will achieve it.