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Rolls-Royce (Aerospace Group)

Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 5 November 2014

(Urgent Question): To ask the Minister for Business and Enterprise if he will make a statement on the Government’s response to the 2,600 job cuts announced by Rolls-Royce across its aerospace group and on plans to establish an economic response taskforce to assist those who lose their jobs in the United Kingdom.

Yesterday Rolls-Royce announced plans to reduce its global headcount by 2,600 over the next 18 months, mainly in its aerospace division. It has not yet decided where the losses will occur, although a significant proportion are expected to be in the UK. Rolls-Royce is in consultation with the work force and the unions about the details of how the reductions will be made. Rolls-Royce has explained that it needs to make the changes to secure its competitiveness in a challenging global market. I realise that this will be a worrying time for the work force and their families. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary cannot be here as he has a prior speaking engagement, but both he and I have spoken to Rolls-Royce and made it clear that we will do all we can to work with the company to support those made redundant.

Since 2010, Rolls-Royce has created 4,000 new jobs in the UK. Part of that increase reflects the large engineering team needed to develop the new Trent engines for the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 XWB, or extra-wide body. Now that these engines have moved from the development phase to the production phase, Rolls-Royce believes that it needs to reduce its development work force. A high proportion of the affected jobs are likely to be engineering jobs, and we know that shortages of engineering skills exist across the UK. We are therefore operating the talent retention solution, which matches engineering talent with new job opportunities. This will be specifically tailored to the needs of Rolls-Royce.

Skills training will be made available where appropriate for those who need to retrain, and a taskforce based on the skills and jobs retention group, including local and national Government, local partners, Rolls-Royce, the supply chain and others, will be established to ensure that we do all we can. The group has a successful track record in redeploying engineering talent with other growing businesses, most recently working with BAE. It is already in contact with Rolls-Royce and other potential employers.

Rolls-Royce has a proud history in the UK in aerospace, employing nearly 25,000 people last year, out of a global work force of 55,000. Its aero engines power more than 30 types of commercial aircraft, with around 13,000 engines in service. Rolls-Royce is, and will remain, the second largest provider of defence aero engine products and services anywhere in the world. In the long term, the prospects for UK aerospace remain bright. Rolls-Royce will continue to take graduates and recruit apprentices, ensuring that it has a pipeline of talent for the future. Our aerospace growth partnership has put in place a long-term plan for the whole aerospace industry, and we have consistently supported Rolls’s investment in new technology, modern manufacturing processes and skills development.

We are determined to support Rolls-Royce while it makes the changes it needs, as part of our growing and world-beating aerospace sector, to ensure that it retains its dominant position. Announcements of job losses are never welcome. We will work with all involved to mitigate the impact, support those affected and ensure that British engineering and British manufacturing can rise to the challenge they face and build a secure future.

I am grateful to the Minister for his statement. He will know that Rolls-Royce was created in Derby and owes its success to Derby, and that this news will be a bitter blow to a proud work force who have delivered that great success for the company. I wonder whether I can probe him a little further on what he and the Government will do to work with the company to minimise job losses in the United Kingdom. Rolls-Royce is the biggest employer in Derby, employing highly skilled, well-paid engineers, so if there is a large job loss in the city, it will have a devastating impact on the wider economy.

Will the Minister also say something about potential skills shortages as a consequence of a short-term decision taken by Rolls-Royce? I appreciate his comments about the potential redeployment opportunities, and we will certainly work with the Government to assist wherever we can on that. The aerospace industry is obviously important, and Rolls-Royce is an iconic international company. It is therefore important, I think, that the Government look at what they can do to work with the company to make sure that this decision to reduce the work force does not lead to a skills shortage further down the track. I would also be grateful if he said something about the conversations he has had or will have with the company in relation to the 400 apprentices in the system, and what guarantees he might be able to secure for them when they complete their training.

Finally, is there anything more the Government can do with research and development, particularly with regard to reimbursable launch investments? Is there scope to be more creative in the use of them—not just for Rolls-Royce, but for the wider manufacturing industry? It is really important for the Government to do whatever they can to promote and increase the scope of manufacturing in our country. These are high-value jobs; they are not the zero-hour, part-time, low-paid jobs that we have seen as a feature of the economic and jobs growth over the last couple of years. These are vital high-skilled jobs, and we need more of them.

The Prime Minister visited Derby several years ago with the Cabinet to say that he wanted to rebalance the economy in favour of manufacturing industry. I just hope that when the Minister gets to his feet, he will be able to provide some reassurances on the points I have made and show that the Government mean what they say and will actually work with the company to ensure that these job losses are minimised. As I said, the success of Rolls-Royce is down to the tenacity, skills and dedication of the work force in Derby, so it is really important that the job losses in our city are minimised.

Order. The hon. Gentleman spoke with great passion and wisdom on matters with which he is intimately concerned. For the future, however, it would be helpful if people tried to stick to the time limits on these matters, because there are many colleagues to accommodate. I do not wish to embarrass her, but I think that colleagues will probably learn shortly from the right hon. Member for Derby South (Margaret Beckett) how it can be done pithily.

Of course we are working to ensure that, as much as possible, those who face redundancy through this process have the support they need, especially to get other jobs in the sectors that are expanding fast. Aero as a whole is expanding, with its exports up sharply over the last four years.

I would, however, caution the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson). I very much look forward to working with him, colleagues and others to ensure that those who are affected get the support they need, but the 4,000-job increase in Rolls-Royce employment over the last four years has, in large part, been in exactly the sorts of high-skilled, high-quality jobs we all want to see. I do not think it behoves the hon. Gentleman well to try to deny that in some way. [Interruption.] On the contrary, what we are trying to do is ensure that, where there are skilled people, they get the retraining that they may need or the connection to those who are trying to expand, and where there are skills shortages in engineering, that undoubtedly means that there are opportunities and job vacancies for the people with those skills who are being made redundant by Rolls-Royce.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his commitment to try to alleviate and find alternative employment for the individuals affected by this devastating announcement, and for his support for and commitment to the aerospace industry, which is important to our global position as a country, enabling us to export, thrive and prosper. Does he also agree that Rolls-Royce engineers, such as the ones working at Filton, just around the corner from where I live, play a vital role in our defence sovereign capability, allowing us to defend our country by producing kit and equipment in the future?

Of course they do. The UK Government’s annual expenditure on defence equipment is about £16 billion. Of course, we have a long-term equipment programme, which is financed and in balance. Rolls-Royce plays a vital part in the supply chain, contributing a huge amount to the defence of this country. On the defence side, those orders will undoubtedly continue to be effectively competed for by Rolls-Royce. Across the piece, our determination in the coming days and weeks is to ensure that anyone who is affected by Rolls-Royce’s final decision, once it is made, obtains the support they need to get the jobs that are increasingly available in engineering.

I think the whole House will share my concern about the fate of workers at Rolls-Royce sites and across its supply chain, who today face uncertainty, anxiety and the risk of losing their jobs. The UK aerospace industry is the largest in Europe and is second only to that of the United States. We need to maintain and support the sector, which provides high-skilled, well-paid manufacturing jobs as well as world-leading innovation and product development.

May I ask the Minister what the implications of this decision are for the Government’s industrial strategy? Does he share my concern that a key part of our long-term manufacturing capability is being sacrificed in the interests of a short-term boost for share price and shareholders? Is he concerned that the proposed job losses are concentrated in engine development, exactly the part of the business and aerospace strategy in which we need to maintain and extend our competitive edge in the next few decades? We cannot lose that capability, so what is he actively doing to maintain it? Can the Minister reassure the House that this does not represent the fact that the Government’s aerospace strategy has been grounded at the slightest hint of turbulence?

This week’s announcement on Rolls-Royce has raised concerns and questions, but it has broader implications for British manufacturing through its supply chain. For every engine sold by Rolls-Royce, 3,000 jobs are supported in the supply chain. Following this decision, what active steps are the Government taking to ensure stability in the aerospace supply chain?

The irony has not been lost that the engineers for tomorrow’s engines face redundancy in Tomorrow’s Engineers week. As my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) said, the jobs at risk at Rolls-Royce are exactly the type of high-skilled, well-paid jobs that we need to see more of; we must not see them leaving these shores or being lost to the industry. Therefore, what active steps are the Government taking to ensure that those vital skills are protected and not lost for good? Have Ministers sought assurances that the firm’s work force and employee representatives will be properly involved and consulted?

It is not good enough for the Minister to say that this is just a commercial consideration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his foreword to the Aerospace Growth Partnership strategy, said:

“Aerospace is a national economic asset to be supported.”

It is time that the Minister acted.

It is a pity that the hon. Gentleman wrote that before he heard my statement. Of course the consultations that he requested are taking place. I have received assurances from Rolls-Royce that it will consult widely. On the industrial strategy, first, having an industrial strategy is a big step forward. The Aerospace Growth Partnership is laying the foundations for long-term support of the UK aerospace sector to ensure that it is competitive in the long term. As part of ensuring that the sector is competitive, it should be allowed to change the formulation of the businesses if it feels that it needs to do that. The assurances I have sought and received are not only that consultation with staff will be widespread but that Rolls-Royce will participate with us in actively seeking other opportunities for those who are made redundant. The talent retention solution, our mechanism to ensure that, if people with a high skill set are made redundant in one company, other companies that have a shortage of that skill set are made aware of that, has worked with BAe, in Portsmouth and other places. We are working to ensure that everyone gets the best possible future.

Unemployment under this Government has fallen by 40% in Derby in the last four years. There is not an ounce of complacency on the Government Benches. We will do everything we can to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity that they need. We will work with the company, the unions and others to ensure that the impact of this is mitigated as much as it can be.

I have many constituents who work for Rolls-Royce in Nuneaton, Coventry and Derby and they and their families will be extremely concerned by this news. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that he will do all he can to engage with the company to mitigate the effects of the announcement? Will he undertake to work with other Departments, particularly the Department for Work and Pensions, to give maximum support to anyone who is affected by this news?

Absolutely. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work in supporting his local industry, and I agree with him that all Government agencies should be involved in giving it the support that it needs. Work on that has already started. The details will of course depend on the detailed decision about where the job losses will fall, but the making of an announcement at the start of the process has helped us to get that work up and running. As I have said, the skills and jobs retention group—which, although based in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, is broadly based and includes many representatives of the industry—is already in contact with the company to make sure that we do all that we can.

The Minister has made it plain that there is concern about the individuals and families affected, and I think that the whole House will share that view. I hope he is aware that the work force and their union representatives have always made it clear to all local Members of Parliament that they are also concerned with the national interest. Maintaining the right balance of skills and capacity will enable not just this company but the whole industry to succeed. Will the Minister be sure to bear that in mind over the coming weeks?

Those are wise words from a former Secretary of State. Rolls-Royce is not only a global success for British industry but a vital part of our industrial landscape, and, as has been pointed out, it also plays a crucial part in our defence capability. Of course we work very closely with the company, whose success is in the national interest as well as the interest of those who are employed there.

The Minister mentioned a talent retention group that would help to redeploy engineering talent. How will he ensure that the group is sent to Bristol and Filton quickly and with the maximum resources available, and will he arrange for its members to meet me, my hon. Friend the Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) and any other willing Bristol Members of Parliament, so that we can assist our constituents who are affected in any way that we can?

Yes, I can certainly do that. While the main focus may be on Derby, there will be concerned employees and their families in many other sites, including Bristol. No decisions have yet been made on the locations of any redundancies, but, as well as consulting local stakeholders, we will ensure that local MPs are heavily involved in the consultation process.

These are obviously very worrying times for Rolls-Royce employees. I broadly welcome the Government’s reassurances about the steps that they will take to alleviate those worries, but there is also a more significant national concern. We are desperately short of skilled engineers nationally, and we desperately need to recruit them and encourage young people to go into engineering; yet here we have a global blue-chip engineering company in this country that is actually laying people off. What measures can the Minister take to counter the negative impression that that creates, so that we can recruit the young people whom we need so much to do skilled engineering jobs throughout the country in the future?

Obviously this announcement is not a cheerful one, but Rolls-Royce has made it clear that it will continue both its graduate programme and its apprenticeship programme, which I know at first hand to be excellent. It is good news that Rolls-Royce is continuing to supply younger talent. It undoubtedly has an eye on the long-term future, and the need to ensure that there is a talented skills base. As for the shorter term, the fact that there are skill shortages in similar areas means that there are more job opportunities for those who are made redundant, and we must make the most of that.

Rolls-Royce clearly did not make this decision lightly. Making it will have taken the company a great deal of time. The problem is, however, that the employees will be very uncertain until they know exactly what the position is. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that packages are in place as soon as possible once people know what is going to happen? Will he also ensure that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills work with UKTI to ensure that Rolls-Royce secures more orders in the future, so that we can retain as many members of its highly paid, skilled work force as possible in the Derby area?

My hon. Friend has made a very good point. The decision to make these reductions over a period of 18 months does, of course, mean that there will be a period of uncertainty, but the fact that the announcement was made at the start is helpful, because it means that we can line up the support that will be provided by the Government and others. We engaged in discussions with the company for a couple of weeks before the announcement to ensure that everything would be ready in time for it, and we must ensure that consultations with the work force and their unions continue.

I was slightly concerned by the Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Kingswood (Chris Skidmore), which suggested that he did not realise how much of an impact this decision could have on Bristol as well as Derby, those being the sites of the two largest aerospace sections. Rolls-Royce has a very good apprenticeship scheme, and I am particularly concerned about the people who are beginning apprenticeships now. What hope can the Minister give them that if older workers are laid off—whether voluntarily or not—there will be jobs for them, so they ought to stick at it and obtain the skills that they are currently trying to acquire?

I do not think that the hon. Lady’s initial characterisation was fair. Bristol is home to a significant Rolls-Royce operation and more than 4,000 apprenticeships have been started in her constituency since 2010, so I entirely understand her concern about the future of apprentices. However, I think that the announcement by Rolls-Royce that it will maintain its graduate and apprenticeship programmes is an important statement of intent to support the younger work force.

About a month ago, Rolls-Royce issued a profit warning in which it said that the problem that it faced was the effect of the imposition of sanctions on Russia. Have my right hon. Friend’s discussions with the company over the last couple of weeks included any discussion of the proportion of the job losses that will have been caused, or affected, by our position in regard to sanctions?

That issue has not been raised with me directly. However, the question of whether we impose sanctions on Russia, and the question of how we deal with Russia, must be considered in the context of the national interest as a whole. Furthermore, international stability and ensuring that sovereign territory is not violated by other sovereign states constitute a crucial principle of global order, and that in itself means that it is necessary to take sanctions against Russia following its action in Ukraine. Some UK interests may be directly affected, but there is a much bigger picture: the need to ensure that we have a more stable international order.

As one who, in his former being, dealt with Rolls-Royce and many other companies and conducted many processes of consultation, I find it extraordinary that the Minister should say that the role of the Government is “to help Rolls-Royce to make the changes”. The purpose of any consultation is first and foremost to establish whether proposed changes should go ahead. Given that, in this instance, there are significant national interest issues ranging from defence to engine development, will the Minister meet representatives of the company to establish whether it would be prepared to change its decision in whole or in part?

As I said earlier, I have met Rolls-Royce executives and spoken to them about the decision, as has my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Rolls-Royce faces a competitive international environment, and if it is to be successful in the future, it will need to be competitive in the future. As has been mentioned, there have been financial pressures on the company, and it is important for it to defend itself against them. Our job is to support those who are affected, and also to talk to the company while it is making its decisions about who will be affected. It is doing that in a consultative way, which I think is the right approach, and we will continue our own engagement.

Will my right hon. Friend expand on the conversations that he has been having? I think that there are real opportunities for many of those whose jobs may be at risk to move into other parts of the Rolls-Royce family. I am thinking particularly of the new gas-fired power stations, because there are some innovative ways of using aero-engines to run them. It would be a tragic loss if Rolls-Royce did not consider every possible opportunity to redeploy the 1,400 or so of my constituents who currently work at Rolls-Royce in Derby.

I am sure that will be taken into consideration. Also, as this is an 18-month process, if things change during that time—for instance, if new orders come in or other parts of the business are successful—I am sure that can be taken into account. I also want to make sure that opportunities outside Rolls-Royce are made available to those made redundant. All these matters must be taken into account.

I and many other MPs represent constituencies with a Rolls-Royce presence. Coventry may be particularly badly affected by this news, although we do not know the final outcome. The Minister should recognise the hard work put in by the labour force in changing working practices and the other changes that they have been prepared to make. Will the Minister meet a delegation of concerned MPs to discuss this? Families up and down the country are going to be very worried as this is a national issue. Cuts in defence affect Rolls-Royce as much as cuts in the civil arena. The Minister should also bear in mind the fact that Rolls-Royce gets a lot of Government grants for research and development, as he may want to use that as a lever to get the truth out of the company.

Of course the relationship between the Government and Rolls-Royce is a very close one, not least because of the support we give it for research and development, but also because of the defence relationship, which is vital to our national security. Of course, I should be very happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and other colleagues about this issue. I agree that we should pay tribute to the work of Rolls-Royce employees and the fact that they have a modern and flexible set of practices across the business in order to help Rolls-Royce be a world-beating company. They are determined to continue that, and we are determined to see that continue too.

Yesterday I was very pleased to host Crawley headquarters, Virgin Atlantic airways here in the House of Commons. It has just ordered 21 Boeing 787s, all with Rolls-Royce engines. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the growth of our innovative aviation sector is key to ensuring that, wherever possible, we maintain a high degree of engineering capability?

One of the explanations that Rolls-Royce has given for this news is that it is coming to the end of a development phase and moving into a production phase for exactly the engines my hon. Friend mentions. Such changes in timing have their effects of course, but the overall picture for the UK aerospace industry is a bright one. Exports are up by almost 50% over the last four years, employment is up, turnover is up and our share of the global market is growing—we are second to the United States and we will remain so. Overall, therefore, there is a positive picture across the industry and we must make the most of that, while also dealing with the direct impact of this decision on individuals who are understandably concerned.

The Minister will know of my long-term interest in the manufacturing sector and, of course, suppliers in Huddersfield supply to Rolls-Royce. This is a brilliant company in a very fast-moving sector. The Minister said we have developed an engine that is moving into production, but my one concern is that if we are going to keep up with the competition, we will need to be developing new engines. Is that not a problem? Is that a worry or a concern?

If the hon. Gentleman says that that is his one concern, he must be a very happy man. There are lots of concerns, all of which we need to take into account. Making sure that we remain at the forefront and the cutting edge of development is, of course, important. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the work he has done to support manufacturing and to push for an industrial strategy across the manufacturing sector. He is at the forefront of Members in driving this agenda forward, and I look forward to working with him as we get through these times.

This sad news will also be a great concern to the 500-plus people in my constituency who work for Rolls-Royce. The company also plays a great role in training young people who work for small and medium-sized businesses all around Derbyshire. Will the Minister work to ensure that training is not lost through these changes?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The supply chain is vital, and it relies on Rolls-Royce for contracts, but it also relies on Rolls-Royce because it has a policy of training apprentices, and some of those apprentices then go out into the supply chain, making sure the supply chain gets the skills training it needs. That has worked incredibly effectively, so I am very pleased that the Rolls-Royce apprenticeship programme will continue and that that was part of the announcement, because the point my hon. Friend made is incredibly important.

The aerospace growth partnership and the defence growth partnership are welcome long-term commitments by the Government, very strongly supported by the Opposition, to the aerospace industry. Is the Minister as disappointed as I am that that long-termism from Government is not mirrored by long-termism by Rolls-Royce? Should we not also have a long-term approach to our aerospace industry from large companies in the sector such as Rolls-Royce?

I welcome the Opposition’s support for the aerospace growth partnership and the defence growth partnership. These are good models that are broadly very successful and are being copied around the world. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will recognise that having a plan that works in the long term is not the same as keeping everything the same, and changes do have to be made from time to time—most of the time, in fact—to ensure companies stay competitive within that long-term framework. That is why our task is to make sure there are more jobs in engineering and that those affected by this decision can get those jobs.

Rolls-Royce has sites at Bankfield and Ghyll Brow in Barnoldswick in my constituency, where it currently employs more than 1,000 people producing aerospace fan-blades. Sadly, under the previous Government Rolls-Royce opened a mirror factory in Singapore to manufacture the same fan-blades, as the company opted to invest abroad rather than in the UK, and, unfortunately, already this year we have seen 100 job losses at the Barnoldswick sites. My right hon. Friend has been kind enough to visit Pendle in the past, so may I invite him to visit again so he can see the fantastic Rolls-Royce facilities we have in Pendle and their importance to our whole local economy?

Yes, I would be delighted to come back to Pendle. I well remember my visit and seeing some of the apprentices who are being trained in Pendle in exactly these sorts of areas. We have got to make sure that that continues in the future, so I look forward to coming back in the next six months.

The Minister will know that Derby and Derbyshire are home to the largest cluster of rail engineering companies in the world. What assessment has he made of the impact of Rolls-Royce’s announcement on the wider engineering and manufacturing supply chain in the east midlands—he mentioned apprenticeships—and what is he doing to address the concerns?

Of course any impact on the supply chain must be taken into account in responding to this decision. The fact that there are engineering shortages, which I think the hon. Lady acknowledges, is a challenge for this country, but it is also a glimmer of light for those affected by this decision, because it means there are more job opportunities in engineering and related activities. We must make the most of that glimmer of light, while supporting those made redundant following this decision.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Filton and Bradley Stoke (Jack Lopresti) about the damage this decision could do to the defence industry. Will my right hon. Friend meet me and Babcock which, as he may know, will potentially be facing a shortage of nuclear engineers, especially with Hinkley C coming on board? We shall need to make sure that it can continue to do the work of refitting and refuelling our nuclear submarines in the best dockyard in the country.

My hon. Friend certainly represents one of the best dockyards in the country. I am very happy to have the meeting he suggests; maybe we should have that meeting in Plymouth at some time during the next six months.

I was extremely worried when this morning at an event in the House of Lords for Nissan the Business Secretary seemed to say that the potential loss of thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs at the factory in my constituency in Washington, and those of others around the country, would be good news for other employers, who could snap them up. Would the Minister like to clarify those comments on behalf of his boss and give us an assurance today that he will fight, rather than accept, the loss of these highly skilled, much needed jobs?

Of course, I was not present at this morning’s event, and I doubt very much whether that was my right hon. Friend’s intention. However, the point is that we have engineering and manufacturing growth, and this has been a difficult achievement and something of a turnaround job. Partly as a consequence of the lack of engineering training in the previous decade, we have engineering shortages, and I hope they can be filled, including from those affected by this decision. As I said in my statement, any decision to have redundancies is undoubtedly an unwelcome one, but it is our job to ensure that the people affected get every best possible potential chance for the future, and we will work night and day to do that.

Can the Minister assure the House that he will liaise with local enterprise partnerships such as D2N2 to secure long-term capital investment in sites such as the Hucknall site, in my constituency, so that those factories can continue to be the most efficient in the world and we can secure the high-skilled engineering jobs they currently provide?

D2N2 is one of the LEPs that make a very strong case for investment in the local area—in Hucknall and in other parts of Nottinghamshire, and of course in Derbyshire. I look forward to working with my hon. Friend on that, as on many other matters.

Aerospace is one of Britain’s key trading sectors, as the Minister has acknowledged today at the Dispatch Box. Within it, Rolls-Royce is an important exporter for the United Kingdom. Given that, can the Minister update the House today on the implications of this week’s announcement by Rolls-Royce for the Government’s strategy of doubling exports to £1 trillion by 2020?

As I have said, aerospace industry exports have gone up by almost 50% in the last few years, supported by the aerospace industrial partnership and by the excellent work of UK Trade & Investment. We want to see that increase continue. We are growing our aerospace global market share and developing new products, and we absolutely and fully support that. This decision does not reflect changes to orders; it reflects the company’s decision on how to fulfil its obligations. The enthusiasm for and weight behind those strategies, which have cross-party support, to increase both civil and defence aerospace exports will absolutely continue.

Yesterday’s announcement was viewed with concern by Rolls-Royce workers at the Ansty site in my constituency. Does the Minister agree on the importance of the company working with employees to ensure that any redundancies in the UK are made on a voluntary basis, and does he agree on the need for flexibility within the work force to ensure that this first-class British company can respond efficiently to a fast-changing world market?

Absolutely. The site at Ansty that supports innovation in aerospace, which my hon. Friend and I have visited, has received £60 million of investment and is a crucial part of ensuring that we have the highest-value, high-end, highly innovative, high-technology manufacturing. Of course Rolls-Royce plays a part in that, and it is a very important part of their future, so we must ensure that the momentum behind that continues.

It was not inconceivable that the engineering phase of the Trent engine project’s reaching a quieter stage would result in personnel changes. How did the Department’s sectoral strategy reflect this?

The sectoral strategy is about making sure that the aerospace industry and, more broadly, engineering in the UK as a whole works: making sure that we have the organisations ready to help people move out of roles that are becoming redundant and go into growing roles with similar skill sets for which there are vacancies—whether within or outside that company. Those structures are set up. We are setting up a specific group to support those who are made redundant through this process, because we must ensure that, where there are skill shortages, they are filled.

As we have heard, there is a skills shortage across the whole of our economy in both trained and trainee engineers, as identified in a recent Science and Technology Committee report. Will my right hon. Friend therefore ensure that, despite this disappointing news, the message goes out stronger than ever to students who are about to choose their options that engineering is still much needed and is still a great career to train for?

Yes, absolutely. Employment in engineering is rising, engineers are well paid and it is an exciting profession. Some of the estimates of the skills shortages across the country are far higher than the 2,600 redundancies globally we are talking about today. These careers are exciting and long term. Britain is a world leader in this regard, and I would encourage anybody who is considering an engineering career to look at it incredibly closely if they want an exciting future.