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Monday, 18 December, 2000, 16:37 GMT
RAF base's future 'secure'
RAF St Athan
RAF St Athan has a 'significant' role to play
The government has spelled out its commitment to maintaining a "significant" RAF jet repair base in south Wales, following fears of jobs being relocated to England.

Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy and Armed Forces Minister John Spellar met to discuss the future of RAF St Athan following concerns expressed by John Smith, MP for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Mr Smith had raised concerns over possible options being considered by Dara to move some staff to the west country or a new site in Cardiff Bay.

The agency will continue to offer substantial employment opportunities in south Wales

John Spellar, Armed Forces Minister
Mr Spellar said he wanted to reassure employees of the Defence Aviation Repair Agency at St Athan, and the local community.

"Despite the restructuring of Defence support services there will continue to be a major defence presence in the Vale of Glamorgan," he said.

'Inevitable changes'

"It is important to realise that the Government established Dara as an agency to give it a firm footing in the Vale of Glamorgan, to which it remains committed.

"As the Ministry of Defence continues to strive towards a more effective and efficient support organisation, there will inevitably be changes in some areas."

Mr Spellar explained that one area of change was Dara moving to a Trading Fund status, which means operations will have to work along fully commercial lines, whilst remaining in the ownership of the MoD.

"Dara will therefore need to win business in the highly competitive defence market place," he said.

This meant reducing overheads and streamlining its processes in line with industry best practice.

'Uniformed manpower'

Mr Spellar said one option was merging engine repair facilities at St Athan and Fleetlands in Gosport, affecting 165 staff - five per cent of St Athan's 3,000-strong workforce.

Mr Spellar added: "Although it is possible that a small number of posts may relocate to other parts of Dara, the bulk of the 3000 posts will remain in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Dara is fully committed to remaining a major aerospace employer in the area, and intends making considerable investment in new facilities to sustain its aircraft repair business in the area.

He added: "It is likely that Dara will be able to replace much of its uniformed manpower with civilians."

This will release RAF manpower for deployment elsewhere and preserve more jobs for the local economy.

"Dara's workforce is - and will always be - its key asset, and the agency will continue to offer substantial employment opportunities in south Wales and invest in its people through apprentice and other training and development schemes.

"Above all, no major changes will take place without full consultation with the Trades Unions, the workforce and public bodies."

In view of locally expressed concerns, it was agreed that Mr Spellar would arrange to meet Mr Smith shortly.

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21 Nov 00 | Wales
No clues over RAF base's future
15 Dec 00 | Wales
RAF base jobs announcement due
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