There are many companies on Tyneside and in the related travel-to-work area doing important work for defence, and we are extremely grateful to them for the skills and dedication of their employees. Good examples include A & P, which is building sections for our two carriers on the Tyne. I have visited it twice, and on the last occasion was privileged to cut the first steel. I also visited Astrum in County Durham the other day; it is producing tracks for our armoured vehicles. I have visited BAE Land Systems, which has produced the Challenger, the Warrior and the Panther and is now working on the Terrier. BAE Systems is also opening a new ammunition factory in Washington, Sunderland.
The workers at BAE Systems’ armoured fighting vehicle factory on Newcastle’s Scotswood road have loyally backed up the efforts of our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they now face job losses, and the run-down and possible closure of the plant, because of the loss of the specialist vehicle order. Was this because Tyneside was politically outgunned by Wales and Scotland, or because the management at the plant were incompetent? Will the Minister come to Tyneside to explain how this decision was made, and what the way forward for the workers will be?
It was neither of those two things. The contract award was made on value for money, which was a function of performance, reliability and cost. I understand my hon. Friend’s disappointment about the decision, but we have to make such decisions on the basis of value for money. I would certainly be happy to accept his invitation to come to Newcastle and to meet the management and the work force again.