The South West Defence Industries Alliance (SWDIA) has received a copy of the Unite Union’s white paper on the economic impact of the Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The Unite Union describes the significant impact of the SDSR on the aerospace industry and the shipyards in the South West.
Mike Byfield spokesman for SWDIA told the Devon Week: “SWDIA has sent a letter to Dr Liam Fox (State Secretary for Defence) expressing our concerns over the economic impact of the SDSR which if implemented will mean the UK losing manufacturing, design and support capability and our armed forces relying on inferior, imported equipment which will not be best value for the UK Tax Payer.
“Just as we sent our letter to Dr Fox, which included a request for a meeting, the Unite Union has come to a similar conclusion to SWDIA. It is clear that as well as the Ministry of Defence, local defence industry, some of the finest names in the world, will be hit hard by the SDSR.”
To quote from the Unite Union white paper:
The Devonport naval facility is seen as a national strategic asset with unique capabilities for the defence sector and Babcock is Devon and Cornwall’s largest private sector employer.
Because of this the naval facility is a fundamental cornerstone of the South West’s regional economy and as such has a vital role in sustaining communities and the supply chain across Devon and Cornwall. This again is an example where any cuts arising from the SDSR could have serious economic and social impact on a regional community. In 2008, the naval base and dockyards were valued at more than £850 million to the local economy.
The naval base employs 2,000 people directly and a further 24,000 people in the supply chain. In May 2010, the then Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox said “For reasons of safety in a very dangerous world, it makes sense for us to have three main dockyards.
Following the very significant socio-economic difficulties caused by cutbacks in the defence budget in the late 1980s and early 1990s Plymouth’s economy has made a significant recovery. However, the dockyard/naval base and their employment of local workers are fundamental to Plymouth’s continued economic well being and the sustainability of the economic community in the South West.
In its conclusion the paper went on to add:
“Unite believes that it is vital that government accepts that the defence industry plays a crucial role in sustaining a large number of communities in the UK. Many of these are communities that would sink into a mire of economic despondency if there were cuts to the current defence projects list.
“Economic circumstances cannot be ignored, the defence sector in the UK is highly profitable, provides for an unprecedented level of R&D and technological innovation which transposes to many other industries in the manufacturing sector and which makes the UK the centre for technologically advanced systems and products made by highly skilled designers, technicians and engineers.”
(from a press release)