Last week ended with some unsettling news about GKN as Leonardo consider taking the manufacture of Wildcat helicopter parts back in-house. It’s a commercial decision and I am confident that many of those highly skilled engineering jobs will be kept in the area, and at the time of writing negotiations with unions are ongoing, but of course thoughts are with the employees and their families at this uncertain time. I am organising a meeting for those affected this Friday with practical help. I speak with Government Ministers on a regular basis about the helicopter industry in Yeovil and they are very supportive of it and want to keep it strong. Michael Fallon has confirmed that the Ministry of Defence is very keen to keep Leonardo as its helicopter manufacturing partner and has just signed a ten year strategic partnership to that effect.
It is a shame that at this time there are some looking out for any negative news to bolster their political agenda. Economies are strongly affected by business confidence and I would suggest that keeping ones fingers crossed for redundancies is not a healthy use of time. I am taking practical steps to encourage industry to increase our skilled engineering base and build on our rich engineering heritage in helicopters and beyond. Unemployment in the area has halved since 2010 and through infrastructure investment and education we can upskill our workforce further and these will be big focusses of my work in Westminster in this Parliamentary session. I raised GKN and the preservation and enhancement of skilled employment in the House of Commons on Monday and have secured meetings with relevant Ministers to discuss opportunities further. The Minister rightly pointed to the 1160 apprenticeships starting in the constituency in the last year as an excellent achievement for the local area.
Touching briefly on the EU, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome Baroness Manzoor of Knightsbridge to the Conservative Party. Baroness Manzoor has left the Liberal Democrats, saying she, ‘could not support the leadership of a party that calls itself democratic and then refuses to acknowledge the will of the people in a referendum.’ As I have said before, if any of my constituents who sit in the House of Lords would like to follow suit they will be offered a warm welcome.
This Saturday I am hosting a fair giving information and advice to pensioners or people looking for advice about their retirement. There will be representatives from banks, energy companies and charities on hand but also a number of other community groups and ways to get involved in local initiatives and activities. In addition to offering some practical help and advice, I hope that a few people may leave with a new interest and new friends. The event is free to attend but we’ll be selling teas and coffees to raise money for St Margaret’s Hospice. The event runs from 11-2pm at Yeovil Baptist Church and I very much hope to see a good crowd – if you would like more information please call my office on 01935 314321.