Paddy Ashdown pressed the Government to make a clear statement, within the Prime Minster’s “Industrial Strategy”, that it is committed to retaining Britain’s stand alone capability to design, manufacture and assembly helicopters, as a vital part of Britain’s aerospace and defence industrial base.
Speaking in the Lords. Lord Ashdown asked the Minster for Business and Innovation “When it comes to a national strategy for innovation and growth, will the Government look closely at the situation which is now developing in Yeovil, Britain’s only integrated site capable of designing manufacturing and assembling helicopters? As a direct result of the Government’s short sighted decision to place the recent Apache order to Boeing in the US, without any competitive process, Leonardo, the current owners of the Westland site, are now shipping assembly work back to Italy. Will the Government now make it clear that they are committed to retaining a UK stand-alone commitment to manufacturing helicopters. Do they realise that without such a declaration Britain’s aero-space industry, our armed forces and the Yeovil community may be placed at risk”
Lord Ashdown, who has recently written to Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh proposing that they should work together to persuade the Government to make a clear statement about their intention to maintain helicopter production at Yeovil, said “Much damage has been done. But I believe that, if the Government will make a clear statement along these lines then Yeovil’s skill base, its contribution the national aero space industry and its support for our armed forces can be maintained – I shall be making these points again when I speak with the Defence Procurement Minister Harriett Baldwin on Wednesday”