TWO bishops have joined eight Lancashire MPs in lamenting the announcement by the arms manufacturer BAE Systems that it is cutting hundreds of jobs in the county.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, and the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, said in a statement on Tuesday that the redundancies were a “cause of great sadness”.
“BAE Systems is an important part of the lifeblood of this great county and the loss of these jobs would be keenly felt by many, not least those directly affected,” they said. “The period ahead will be a time of great worry and uncertainty for BAE staff and for their loved ones. So we also encourage local communities to join together in support for their neighbours, friends, and families.”
BAE Systems, one of the largest defence conglomerates in the world, announced on Tuesday that 1915 jobs would be cut, including 750 at its Warton and Samlesbury plants in Lancashire, which help to build the RAF’s Typhoon fighter jet, among other projects.
“We understand companies sometimes have to take difficult decisions, and we note BAE has pledged to support all those whose jobs are under threat, which is encouraging,” the Bishops’ statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers now and in the coming days and weeks will be with those who have heard the news today.”
Eight of Lancashire’s MPs, both Conservative and Labour, have written a joint letter to the Prime Minister, asking her to intervene and to “mitigate the impact” of the redundancies: “We must avoid compulsory redundancies and seek to find alternative work streams. Lancashire has a proud history of aerospace engineering, and the jobs that are provided at BAE Systems are highly skilled. If these skills are lost it will be devastating for the UK’s sovereign design and manufacturing capability.”
Most of BAE’s work comes from the UK Government, and the MPs called on ministers from both the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to meet with BAE urgently to explore opportunities to prevent job losses.
In answer to parliamentary questions, however, the junior business minister Claire Perry insisted that the job cuts were not a result of a change in defence spending by the Government, and that it would be wrong to interfere in a private company’s restructuring.