Aerospace firms lobby Treasury to accelerate military spending plan

The Treasury is standing in the way of a plan to bring forward military spending to help aerospace and defence manufacturers through the coronavirus pandemic, the industry lobby group has claimed.

Aerospace bosses are calling for the government to accelerate their defence procurement programmes to aid companies whose civil aviation businesses have been badly hit, as airlines have cut back orders.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signalled it would back the plans, which are also being pushed by unions, amid fears that aviation job losses, which are already in the tens of thousands, could grow further.

The union Unite has proposed that the government accelerate the Tempest fighter jet programme, as well as committing to orders of its Type 31 and fleet solid support (FSS) ships.

However, a document from the aerospace lobby group, the ADS, seen by the Guardian, suggests that the industry has found the Treasury unwilling to change the timing of spending commitments, which can run into the billions of pounds. Government borrowing has already surged during the crisis.

The document describes the MoD, which is otherwise under pressure to reduce costs, as receptive to bringing forward spending. It notes, however, that “the challenge lies in persuading the Treasury that amending defence and space procurement budgets is appropriate at this stage”.

Pressure on the UK government to support the aerospace industry has grown after the French government last week unveiled a €15bn (£13.5bn) package for the sector.

The disparity in support has already led the Airbus chief executive, Guillaume Faury, to warn that its UK operations will face more permanent job losses than France or Germany. The European aircraft maker has cut a third of its production capacity. Steep cuts are also expected in its UK operations, focused on its wing factory in Broughton, north Wales.

Rolls-Royce, the UK maker of jet engines, has already announced 9,000 job cuts, while Canadian planemaker Bombardier has shed 600 jobs in Northern Ireland.

The UK government has also provoked the ire of the aerospace industry through the imposition of a 14-day quarantine on passengers arriving from abroad. The industry argues that the quarantine requirement will damage demand for new planes from airlines.

An ADS spokesman said: “Our defence and space industries are well placed to act as a catalyst for economic recovery. National strategic projects such as the combat air strategy, shipbuilding and digital technologies can make a major contribution to national recovery, sustain important R&D capabilities, support the supply chain and create long-term, high-value jobs for the future.”

A Treasury spokeswoman said: “The government is in regular contact with the sector to assist them through this crisis. We recognise the challenges facing the industry as a result of coronavirus and firms can draw upon the unprecedented package of measures, including schemes to raise capital, flexibilities with tax bills and financial support for employees.”

Source: Read Full Article