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Aerospace Industry

Volume 603: debated on Tuesday 15 December 2015

I was delighted that in the spending review the Government committed a further £900 million of funding for aerospace research and development, supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute. That means that this Government will invest almost £2 billion in aerospace research over 13 years to 2025-26, so our world-leading aerospace industry can stay at the forefront of development and capitalise on the estimated £3.6 trillion market for new aircraft that will be needed over the next 20 years.

I recently met Mark Porter and Jon Brough, the trade union representatives at Rolls-Royce’s two sites at Barnoldswick in my constituency. They welcome the continuation of Government support for the aerospace growth partnership in the comprehensive spending review. However, they remain concerned about the outsourcing of high-value engineering jobs to low-cost countries. What more can my right hon. Friend do to address this concern?

I am more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the concerns of all those he has met with. Rolls-Royce, along with the aerospace sector as a whole, is a major contributor to the United Kingdom economy, so we get how important it is. That is why we have protected and, indeed, extended the investment that we are making in research and development.

The recent announcement of the expansion of the Aerohub enterprise zone in Cornwall to include the Goonhilly earth station has been keenly welcomed in Cornwall. Does the Minister agree that this creates a great opportunity for Cornwall to be awarded the location of the UK spaceport, which would provide a huge bonus to the Cornish economy?

I am sure my hon. Friend will continue to make that case. I have to say that a number of other airports are in the running and we aim to launch the selection process next year. We have heard the great news about the launch today and Major Tim going up into space. Ground control can report that the UK space sector has almost doubled to £11.8 billion—[Interruption.] I know it is the festive season, but I think it is most unfortunate that Opposition Members are singing. It is not good. I hope they might cheer the fact that the sector has almost doubled to £11.8 billion in just seven years and employs 37,000 people.

Order. Sing, but no Member of this House can match David Bowie—highly relevant as far as ground control is concerned.

Rolls-Royce is of strategic importance to our aerospace industry, not just in Derby but in Sheffield and Bristol. What are the Government prepared to do to safeguard that capacity, which is increasingly in the news at the moment, in order to ensure that we not just invest in but safeguard the future of the industry so that the UK stays at the forefront of aerospace manufacturing globally?

We should of course mention the importance of Rolls-Royce to a great city like Derby; I say that, obviously, as a Nottinghamshire MP. In all seriousness, we are monitoring the situation carefully. We recognise the huge importance of the role that Rolls-Royce plays in our economy. It is really important that we do not talk things down. [Interruption.] Forgive me, but there is too often a tendency among Labour Members, not necessarily the hon. Lady, to talk things down. It is really important that we do not do that and that we continue to support Rolls-Royce.

In order to stop Rolls-Royce falling into the hands of the Chinese, let us say, why do not this Government take Rolls-Royce back into public ownership?

Because—I know the hon. Gentleman will have trouble in understanding this—this is 2015. We are not back in the ’60s and the dark days of the ’70s, and we have a long-term economic plan that delivers, unlike his plan, which would be an absolute disaster for our country.

As we have heard from my hon. Friends, we have been watching the recent developments in relation to Rolls-Royce very closely, not only because of the implications for national security but because it is the biggest single employer for Britain’s aerospace sector. As the Minister said, the global market for new aircraft is predicted to be worth £3.6 trillion in the next 20 years, so we welcome the investment in the Aerospace Technology Institute. However, is it not about time that Ministers considered developing an industrial strategy instead of continuing the current piecemeal approach?

I am not going to repeat all the things I have said about our continuing investment. With £900 million of taxpayers’ money going into aerospace, we absolutely understand and recognise its significance. It is very easy to put on labels, but it does not matter what label we put on—it is about delivery, and that is what this Government continue to do.