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Minister and MP to hold factory talks.

A DEFENCE minister will meet a Newcastle MP to discuss the future of a factory where hundreds of jobs are at risk.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, pictured, asked Defence Minister Peter Luff to meet her and a delegation from defence contractor BAE Systems to discuss the fate of the company's Scotswood Road factory. The minister failed to initially respond to her request in Parliament, although Ms Onwurah later posted a message on social network Twitter to report that the minister had agreed to meet her.

He also made clear that his view was that the loss of 330 jobs was down to BAE Systems being uncompetitive. The company announced the closure of the former Vickers factory at the start of June, along with 100 job losses at its Washington site.

Addressing the Scotswood Road site, Ms Onwurah said: "This brings to an end a 165-year history of skilled engineering, the longest continuous site of tank manufacture anywhere in the world, as well as bringing great distress and uncertainty to my constituents.

"Would the minister agree that refusing to take into account the wider economic implications of defence procurement not only undermines innovation, but jobs and communities across the country? "And would he further agree to meet with me and a delegation from BAE to see what can be done to save the site."

Mr Luff said he had "enormous respect" for the Labour MP's concern for her constituents, and paid tribute to the work of staff in supporting the Armed Forces.

But he added: "The problem is that BAE Systems has not won contracts for this particular site." Other programmes had secured thousands of highly skilled jobs around the UK, said Mr Luff.

The Labour MP confirmed Mr Luff had agreed to a joint meeting with the Department for Business to discuss the site's future. BAE Systems declined to respond to the minister's comments, but set out the reasoning behind the closer.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 12, 2012
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