Publication: Prasun Sonwalkar Issued: Date: 2003-09-05 Reporter: Prasun Sonwalkar

Hawk Deal to Save 5 000 UK Jobs, Unions Rejoice

 

Publication 

Prasun Sonwalkar

Date 2003-09-05

Reporter

Prasun Sonwalkar

 

There has been much despair among unions as thousands of British jobs moved to India in the outsourcing boom, but for the first time in recent years, unions cheered on Wednesday as news about India buying Hawk reached Britain. The Guardian symbolised the sense of elation in the headline: 5 000 jobs safe as India buys Hawk. The deal safeguards 5 000 British jobs, including 2 200 at Brough, East Yorkshire, where the plane is built. It gives the plant up to six years work.

Kevin Curran, leader of the GMB union, said the Indian decision was a much-needed boost for UK manufacturing and aerospace industry.Derek Simpson, Amicus leader, said the earlier British decision had shown foreign orders could be won. Mike Turner, chief executive of BAe, which hopes to win up to 500 export orders for the new Hawk, welcomed government support and the boost to British manufacturing capability.

However, there were also voices of criticism over the size of the deal. David Mepham, associate director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, insisted the deal was a source of serious concern, not celebration, as Britain would significantly strengthen Indias military capability in a region that stood on the verge of nuclear war a year ago.

The left-leaning IPPR said the 1bn cost of 66 Hawks, which could be used for combat purposes as in Indonesia, was 10 times the value of annual British development aid to India. Roy Isbister, project co-ordinator on arms export controls for the pressure group Saferworld, told The Independent, The aircraft is listed as a trainer, but it also has a ground-attack function and is extremely well designed for the conditions in Kashmir.

Robert Parker, Amnesty Internationals arms and security trade specialist, said the sale would violate the governments export criteria. He said a clause banned the issue of export licences for British-made arms that might have an adverse effect on regional stability or be used aggressively against another country.

Geoff Hoon, defence secretary, currently grappling with the Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons expert David Kelly, claimed to have played the decisive role in persuading the Indian government to award the contract to BAe Systems for 66 Hawk jet trainer aircraft. The Labour government last year had rejected demands for an embargo on arms sales to India and Pakistan, despite political tension between the two regional rivals.

Ben Bradshaw, a foreign office minister, said at the time that there was no need for a formal arms embargo since the government was not allowed to license for export any equipment where there is a clear risk that it could be used for external aggression or internal oppression.Some 126 Jaguar bombers, also made by BAe Systems, are being produced in India under licence.

It is officially admitted that the aircraft are capable of being adapted to carry nuclear weapons. For BAe Systems, this represents another coup, following last months decision of the defence ministry to choose the latest generation of Hawk aircraft, the Hawk Mk128, as its new advanced trainer in a deal worth up to 800m.

The Indian government has chosen the Hawk after intense competition against Czech-American jets made by aircraft maker Aero Vodochody. Washington had lobbied the Indian government hard, arguing that the L159B was better and cheaper than the Hawk.

With acknowledgement to Prasun Sonwalkar.