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Aerospace Industry

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Government are working with industry, through the Aerospace Growth Partnership, to remove the barriers to growth, to boost exports and to grow high-value jobs. As part of that work, we are supporting the industry’s investment in technology, competitiveness, productivity, and skills.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that answer. Will he join me in congratulating Boeing, which has a significant base in my constituency, on more than doubling its workforce since 2010 and on increasing investment in UK suppliers from £1 billion to £1.4 billion over that period?

I certainly will. Crawley is an important area for aerospace: Jeppesen-Boeing has a fantastic flight training and service facility, which includes the largest number of Boeing Dreamliner simulators in the world; and of course the area is also home to Thales and London Gatwick airport. I commend my hon. Friend on the work he has done to promote this industry.

The last financial quarter saw the highest ever number of aircraft deliveries—it was up 5% on last year’s figure and up 34% on 2010’s. Many aerospace companies across Pendle credit the Government’s Aerospace Growth Partnership as having played a key role in that success, so will the Secretary of State confirm that he will continue to support that valuable partnership?

Yes. I see regular dialogue with the sector councils, such as the Aerospace Growth Partnership, as a vital part of our industrial approach. It is important that the UK continues to become more productive and more competitive, and that has been central to the work of the Aerospace Growth Partnership. I will be meeting many of that industry’s representatives on 3 December in Filton.

Further to that question, will the Secretary of State confirm today that the UK Government will continue to fund the Aerospace Growth Partnership through their £1 billion contribution over seven years from 2013 and that he is not considering in any way diluting the funding available for the Aerospace Growth Partnership, particularly by converting it into loans?

The Government are absolutely committed to having a strong aerospace sector, and that strength is represented in our commitment to the Aerospace Technology Institute, which is what I believe the hon. Gentleman was referring to.

Discussions move ahead on the UK’s first space port. Does the Minister agree that safety, especially that of the general public, is of primary importance in considering the location of such a space port? Do not a coastal location and extensive airspace unhampered by commercial flying, such as are available at Llanbedr in my constituency, make a crucial contribution to any safety assessment?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to say that safety is paramount in that sector. We have consulted on a location and we will be talking to our colleagues in the Department for Transport on the outcome.

As the Secretary of State is aware, I have world-leading aerospace companies in my constituency, and they are appreciative of the help the Government are giving to the sector. The biggest problem they still face is the inability to recruit a sufficient number of young people who are considering engineering as a career. What discussions is he having with the Education Secretary about persuading teachers to enlighten pupils as to the opportunities that exist in the sector?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Skills in engineering, not just for this sector, but for many others, are hugely important. With my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary, we are working closely to get more employers into schools to talk to schoolchildren about their prospects and the huge opportunities that exist in that industry. There is always more that we can do, and he is absolutely right to raise this issue.

Last week, Paul Everitt, the head of the aerospace trade body, ADS, said:

“Loans for research and development are not appropriate and that kind of approach would put the UK at a disadvantage.”

May I press the Secretary of State to answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) and rule out replacing research grants with loans that will damage Britain’s ability to innovate and compete?

I made a speech yesterday at the annual conference of Innovate UK in which I talked about the many ways to help the sectors. Grants, exports and skills are just some of them. One thing this Government will not shy away from is supporting that sector, and supporting innovation.