BAE Systems “not a normal business” says senior Tory MP after RAF Marham job cut announcement
PUBLISHED: 13:51 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 14:52 10 October 2017
A senior Tory MP accused BAE Systems of enjoying “special treatment” and a “near-monopoly position” in UK defence, as he urged ministers to scrutinise almost 2,000 potential job losses.
Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said BAE Systems “are not a normal business” given its standing in the UK procurement system.
It comes after the defence giant announced 245 jobs at RAF Marham in Norfolk and RAF Leeming could be cut as part of a restructure.
The comments came after Business Minister Claire Perry said the proposed cuts by the defence giant were a result of normal business practice rather than any government decisions on defence spending.
She told the Commons the Ministry of Defence had spent almost £4bn with BAE Systems in the past year.
Mr Lewis said: “When BAE Systems says to the Government that this is normal business practice, will the Government reply to BAE Systems and remind them that they are not a normal business, because they enjoy a near-monopoly position in many parts of the British defence procurement structure.
“Will they therefore extract from BAE Systems a promise to work closely with the government and to examine to what extent any streamlining is really necessary and to what extent this can be ameliorated by common action, bearing in mind the special treatment that BAE Systems so often receives from the United Kingdom Government.”
Ms Perry said: “He is right to remind us that we spend almost £4bn in procuring products and services from BAE Systems.
“But again, I think it is really important that if we want to have a globally competitive, highly efficient bastion of success in this vital industry, that we do allow the company to go through its management processes.
“Of course we want to procure from BAE Systems. We also procure from a wide range of other suppliers and it would be wrong for government to be trying to interfere in the business processes.”
Earlier, Ms Perry told MPs that BAE systems is considering reductions of up to 1,400 staff in its military, air and information businesses, 375 in its maritime services division and 150 in its supply of intelligence business.
She said no decisions would be taken before a 30-day period of consultation, and that voluntary redundancies would be made as far as possible.
“The House should be absolutely clear that BAE Systems has taken this decision as a result of, effectively, normal business practice,” said Ms Perry.
“It’s a result of internal restructuring and a drive to transform its businesses so it can continue to be one of our most efficient and effective companies, generating export orders across the world.
“This is not related to any UK defence spending decisions.”
The minister said efforts would be made to get staff other skilled jobs in the UK, as she attacked Labour’s stance on defence at the party’s conference in Brighton.
“It was very striking how during conference speech after conference speech – not the honourable members opposite, for whom I have great respect – but other members went out of their way to criticise exactly this industry that we are talking about today,” Ms Perry said.
Shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith said uncertainty over future orders had played a part in the decision, as well as concerns over MoD funding and the impact over Brexit.
“The government could take immediate steps to counter this by bringing forward orders for nine new Hawk aircraft for the Red Arrows,” Ms Griffith said