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Aerospace Industry

Volume 563: debated on Wednesday 15 May 2013

1. What recent discussions he has had with the First Minister on future investment in the aerospace industry in Wales. (153883)

The aerospace industrial strategy published in March sets out a vision for the sector, including a joint industry and Government investment of £2 billion across the next seven years. I am pleased that the Welsh Government have endorsed that strategy.

Aerospace and Airbus are great success stories in Wales, so why do the Secretary of State and his Government believe that now is the time to create uncertainty on the question of Europe, which could threaten future investment in the sector? Does he not want quality jobs in Wales?

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman that Airbus is an important and innovative employer. I have visited it twice recently, including when the contract for the AirAsia order was signed. However, Europe is an important issue. The Prime Minister considers it right that we should debate it properly, and that, at the end of that debate, we should have a vote. After the dust has settled, the fact will remain that, of all the mainstream parties, only the Conservative party wants to give the people of this country a vote on Europe.

St Athan enterprise zone in my constituency is focused on aerospace, and offers fantastic facilities, including hangars, runways and skills. What action is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that UK Trade & Investment is playing its full part to work with the community, those employed in St Athan and the Welsh Government to develop its status?

My hon. Friend is entirely right that St Athan offers an enormously important resource in south Wales. The Aerospace Technology Institute will lead collaborative research and development projects across the UK, which will involve universities and industry. I suggest that that is a tremendous opportunity for St Athan.

Airbus is a quintessentially European company. It employs 6,000 people in Wales and 10,000 in the UK, and 100,000 further jobs support it. Does the Secretary of State believe that those jobs will be more or less secure if Wales is not part of Europe?

The hon. Gentleman is wrong because Airbus employs 6,600 people in Wales, but he is right that it is an extremely important employer. Nevertheless, the people of this country deserve to have their voice on Europe. The Prime Minister will carry out important negotiations in the next few years. At the end of that period, the issue of Europe will be put to the British people. It is right that it should be. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party want to deny the people of Wales and the UK their voice on that important issue.

Leaving the pedantry aside, we had no answer from the Secretary of State on whether he believes that those 6,600 jobs in Wales will be more or less secure if Wales is not part of the EU. For the record, could he clarify his position on whether the jobs will be more secure if Wales is in or out of the EU? What is our Secretary of State’s opinion?

I am entirely happy to clarify the point. Membership of the EU will be subject to negotiation. To repeat, at the end of that negotiation, we will see whether the conditions are right for this country to remain in the EU. The interests of companies such as Airbus will, of course, be taken fully into account.