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New defence secretary urged to back UK defence workers

New defence secretary urged to back UK defence workers

02 November 2017

Unite the UK’s largest defence trade union, today (Thursday 2 November) called on the new defence secretary Gavin Williamson to reverse the ‘hollowing out’ of Britain’s sovereign defence capability and spend the UK’s defence budget to support jobs in Britain rather than in factories overseas.

With over 50,000 defence jobs gone over the last decade and a further 2,000 cuts planned by BAE Systems, Unite called on the new defence secretary to commit to ordering new Hawk jets for the Red Arrows to replace the existing fleet made in the 1970s. 

The move, combined with government investment in the new advanced Hawk trainer jet, support for advanced orders of the Typhoon along with a commitment to the future generation fighter jet programme, would help secure the UK’s ability to independently manufacture fighter jets at BAE Systems’ sites at Brough, Samlesbury and Warton.

Warning of a looming ‘travesty’, Unite is also pressing for commitments from the defence secretary that the Type 31e Frigates and planned Royal Navy FSS auxiliary vessels will be designed and built in the UK to support jobs, skills and communities.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “The new defence secretary Gavin Williamson needs to commit to supporting UK defence workers and spending the UK’s defence budget in Britain to support UK jobs rather than jobs in overseas factories with the likes of Boeing.

“He needs to signal a reversal of the hollowing out of the UK’s ability to independently design, develop and manufacture defence equipment by committing to new Hawk jets for the red Arrows and investment in the new advanced Hawk trainer programme.

“It would be a travesty of monumental proportions if the world renowned Red Arrows ended up promoting British interests abroad in a foreign built aircraft and deeply short sighted if the government failed to commit to a future generation fighter jet programme.

“Shipbuilding communities across the UK would also feel betrayed if the design and build of the Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigates and FSS auxiliary support vessels was shipped off overseas.

“With around 25 pence in every pound of defence spending set to go to US factories by 2020, it is time for the government to take back control of Britain’s defence capability and support UK defence workers, skills and communities.”

ENDS

For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869. 

Notes to editors:

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.