Grahame Morris MP spoke in yesterday’s Westminster Hall Debate on defence procurement, secured by Mick Whitley MP.
Mr Morris argued that defence represents a lucrative opportunity for job creation and retention in Britain. He insisted that defence projects have a domestic focus, with a particular emphasis on social value.
The Easington MP focused on the ongoing dispute at Rolls-Royce in Barnoldswick, where Unite the union members are currently being forced to take industrial action, as Rolls-Royce is cutting 350 highly-skilled jobs and offshoring them to Singapore.
Workers fear that this latest round of job cuts will spell the end of the site itself, as it will likely become unviable as a result. The Barnoldswick workforce actually helped to set up the Singapore site, having been given promises that this would never put the home site at risk, a gross betrayal of loyal staff.
Mr Morris emphasised that Barnoldswick has a long-established history in British defence procurement – it is the birthplace of the jet engine. This remains the case today; Barnoldswick workers produce the Joint Strike Fighter lift fan blades for the STOVL version of the F35 Lightning joint strike fighter.
Unite the union understands that this work will remain at the Barnoldswick site for now, owing to International Traffic in Arms Regulations. However, the latest job cuts at the Barnoldswick site call into question the viability of the site itself. This in turn risks the production of the JSF lift fan blades eventually being transferred to Singapore too.
On the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, striking workers rightly believe that it is a disgrace that the Barnoldswick site, known as Shadow Factory #9, is under threat, given its heritage and the important role it played in supplying the components for Merlin engines that kept the Spitfires flying.
As a part of its long-standing history in supporting British defence, Rolls-Royce has benefitted from vast amounts of UK taxpayer money; not only in loans, grants, tax breaks and R&D but in the form of defence contracts.
The situation at Rolls-Royce is one that must be avoided elsewhere.
Mr Morris joined striking workers, union reps, union officials, and Labour colleagues on the virtual picket line last Friday. He concluded, “Striking workers are still there now, as I speak. I’d like to once again express my unwavering solidarity with these workers who are striking to save their jobs, not just for themselves and their families, but for future generations and for their community.”