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Aerospace

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2017

2. What recent assessment he has made of the international competitiveness of the UK aerospace. (908476)

The UK has the second largest aerospace industry worldwide, with strengths in some of the most technologically advanced parts of aircraft—wings, engines and advanced systems. The sector has annual turnover of around £30 billion and exports of some £25 billion a year.

Leading aerospace part designer and manufacturer Senior Aerospace Bird Bellows in my constituency speaks positively of the support from the Government’s Sharing in Growth scheme, which it says will be key in helping the company to realise its ambitious growth strategy. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the company on its plans and consider visiting its factory in Congleton to learn more?

I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating the company. I have visited companies benefiting from the Sharing in Growth programme and I would be delighted to go to see the one in her constituency.

Rochester and Strood has a proud aerospace history, having had the Short Brothers iconic flying boats. It is now home to Aeromet, an important SME that is part of the supply chain for Airbus. Will my hon. Friend outline how his Department will ensure that the UK aerospace supply chain will continue to have unhindered access to major opportunities in our manufacturing industries?

As my hon. Friend will know, the aerospace growth partnership has been a great success, with the Government working closely with industry. As part of that, the Government have made a joint funding commitment with the industry for nearly £4 billion of aerospace research between 2013 and 2026, so I think that the future is relatively well funded.

What guarantees will the Minister give to ADS, the group representing the UK aerospace industry, which states that it must have

“Access to vital space programmes initiated by the European Space Agency, but funded by specific EU programmes”?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already talked about the importance of our satellite programmes in this country. The European Space Agency sits outside the EU structure, so it will be handled separately from EU discussions.

Does my hon. Friend see the signing of the contract in Turkey last week by the United Kingdom and Turkey on the new Turkish fighter jet as an endorsement of the skills and expertise of BAE Systems in this country, and does he foresee future deals with other countries?

I think that everyone concerned with the aerospace sector will welcome that transaction. It shows how BAE continues to be a global leader in this sector, and we must hope that it goes on to do further such work around the world.

In the last two years, Glasgow has built more satellites than any other city in Europe, with 100 private and public sector organisations such as Clyde Space contributing more than £130 million to the Scottish economy. This is much credited to Scotland’s long-standing strength in engineering, science and technology. As we face the prospect of a hard Tory Brexit, will the Minister make a commitment here and now that Scotland’s aerospace sector will be protected and that there will be no detriment to this vital sector and its many jobs?

The success of Scotland has been part of a wider UK success. I absolutely recognise the point that the hon. Lady mentions. I was in Glasgow only last week, talking to high-tech companies at Glasgow University, and I can absolutely vouch for their quality.

In my former career as an aerospace engineer—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] They have not heard the question yet, Mr Speaker. In that former career, I saw several examples of our aerospace competitiveness being diminished by the political enforcement of collaboration in engineering across Europe. Will the Minister ensure that future collaboration across Europe on aerospace happens where that is productive, not where it suits geopolitical objectives?

I admire the subtle and unobtrusive way in which my hon. Friend smuggled his personal experience into that question. I assure him that we will continue to take a thoroughly co-operative approach with European colleagues.

The recent “Steel 2020” report noted that steel is a key foundation industry for the UK that underpins our aerospace and automotive sectors, as well as many others. However, in the Government’s 130-page industrial strategy Green Paper, steel is mentioned just once. Can the Minister explain why he is neglecting this important industry?

I am surprised that the hon. Lady says that because the Government have had very productive discussions with the steel industry.