ANDREW STEPHENSON MP: Aerospace is crucial for the local economy

MP Andrew Stephenson.
MP Andrew Stephenson.

On March 18th, the Government set out its aerospace industrial strategy.

This was the first sector-based industrial strategy to be published, showing how important aerospace is to the British economy. As one of the pillars of our local economy, this was an important announcement for Pendle.

In September, the new overall strategy to support British industry was set out. A range of sectors are going to receive help. Apart from aerospace, we should hear later this summer how the Government will support the agri-business and automotive sectors, too.

I have said before that people often fail to realise how large the number of people employed in the aerospace industry is, both locally and across the country. There are 230,000 employed across the UK and aerospace creates work for over 3,000 companies.

At the moment, we are the leading country in Europe in aerospace and only behind the United States on the global stage. The future is encouraging, too, with 27,000 new large passenger aircraft like the Airbus 380 forecast between now and 2030, worth £2.4 trillion.

One of the biggest challenges we face is making sure graduates and apprentices want to work in the aerospace industry, rather than take up sometimes more financially rewarding careers in finance or business.

That is why I and Pendle’s manufacturers are excited about the new University Technical College for East Lancashire and why I am so pleased with the massive increase in apprenticeships we have seen since May, 2010.

There are other challenges, too – around the environmental performance of aeroplanes, making the supply chain more competitive and creating a need for new technologies and materials.

Last year, the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative was set up to tackle risks to the supply chain and a new body, the UK Aerospace Technology Institute, supported by both Government and industry, has been set up to focus on doing the “R&D” we need.

Towards the end of 2012, I again visited the Barnoldswick Rolls-Royce site to see the developments they have been making and learn about the challenges they face. As treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Aerospace Group, I regularly meet representatives from Rolls-Royce and continue to make the case for investment in the Barnoldswick site, rather than investment overseas as we saw under the last government.

I have also met with Airbus. Although they are not based in Pendle, many of the parts and equipment they use are manufactured here by small and medium-sized enterprises. Airbus employs over 100,000 people through the extended supply chain, worth £2 billion to the economy. I will continue to work with them to make sure those businesses in Pendle play a bigger role in the supply chain, creating more jobs.

Aerospace is a vital part of both the local and national economy, a source of jobs, growth and opportunities for our younger generation. I am pleased the Government has shown recognition of this by making it the focus of its first industrial strategy.