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Aerospace Sector

Volume 679: debated on Wednesday 2 September 2020

What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on support for the aerospace sector in Northern Ireland. (905478)

The Government recognise that this industry is key to Northern Ireland’s economic success, with the sector in Northern Ireland valued at over £1.8 billion. Like many sectors, aerospace has come under immense pressure during the pandemic. That is why we put unprecedented support in place through the job retention scheme and the Bank of England’s covid corporate financing facility. Last week, I met Bombardier at its Shorts site and Stratospheric Platforms to discuss the challenges and opportunities for developing the sector and how the UK Government can support their success.

Ministers seem to be doing little more than shrugging their shoulders as the UK’s world-leading aerospace sector goes to the wall. When will they step in with sector-specific support?

The UK Government have made available £2.1 billion to the UK aerospace sector through the covid corporate financing facility and additional flexibility for UK export finance, which is supporting £3.5 billion of sales in the next 18 months. I continue to work closely with my colleague the aerospace Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi). I am determined that we do support businesses in Northern Ireland, as across the UK.

I trust that the Minister’s visit to Bombardier last week was successful. He knows how important aerospace is to the Northern Ireland economy, but he also knows that there is a cliff-edge coming in the job retention scheme and in the support for our aerospace sector in particular. He also knows that should redundancies continue and the situation gets worse, the skills will be lost and they will not come back. The time is coming. Talk is talk. We need to see action. We need to see a bespoke package of support for aerospace in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingdom.

I absolutely sympathise with the point the hon. Gentleman is making, and the crucial importance of this sector and its skills to his constituency. The covid-19 outbreak has seen a severe impact on aviation and aerospace industries around the world. The UK Government have provided significant support to the sector, including the business interruption scheme and the job retention scheme. The Chancellor has confirmed that that commitment remains in place until October, but one of the things I discussed with Bombardier on my visit last week is the vital importance of maintaining that skills base. That is a point I will absolutely take to colleagues across government.