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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
BAE wins key aircraft deal
BAE Systems Hawk plane
Hawk: The Italian alternative was rejected
The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that it is to order 20 Hawk trainer jets from UK defence giant BAE Systems.

The order should safeguard jobs at BAE's plant in Brough, east Yorkshire, which would otherwise been under threat.

The order is for 20 jets initially, with options for 24 more.

The MoD says the value of the full order of 44 jets would be 800m.

Workers at BAE's plant at Brough had been told that 470 jobs would have been at risk if the government did not opt for the Hawk.

Derek Simpson, general secretary of the Amicus union, told the BBC: "I think this is a win-win-win situation, good for the government, good for the company and good for employees in British manufacturing."

Staff 'delighted'

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the contract decision was "good news for jobs and prosperity".

"This is a significant decision. Hawk had become a test case of whether the government will use public procurement in an intelligent way to boost hard-pressed manufacturers.

"The government has passed with flying colours."

Ian Gent, convenor for staff unions at the Brough plant, told BBC News Online he was "absolutely delighted".

"The announcement made today by the government to commit to buying the Hawk brought an end to 18 months of uncertainty," he said.

"While it's all been going on those people in the factory have continued to build everything that has been needed to fulfil contracts and its really their reward more than anything."

He said there was "a lot of delight, a lot of smiles and lots of thumbs up," on the factory floor.

"I walked around the factory and it was rather like going to Wembley and watching a penalty shoot out.

"The looks on people's faces were like they were waiting for the ball to sail over the bar - but in this case it's gone straight into the back of the net."

Cabinet split

The decision to award the deal to BAE had been mired in political controversy.

Opting for the Hawk offers poorer value to the taxpayer than choosing a cheaper Italian rival, Finmeccanica's Aermacchi M-346, analysts have said.

The Cabinet had been split between securing value for money and bolstering employment in Brough, close to John Prescott's Hull East constituency.

Earlier, the prime minister said the decision would have to be taken in "the interests of British industry but also making sure that any solution is cost competitive".

Shares in BAE Systems closed 5% higher at 148 pence.

The BBC's Hywel Jones
"Getting this money was very important for BAE systems"

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