NORTH East MPs want ministers to review the award of a £1.4bn rail contract to German firm Siemens despite hundreds of regional jobs being at stake.
Labour’s Ronnie Campbell, Grahame Morris, Mary Glindon and Tom Blenkinsop have signed a Commons motion saying they are “dismayed and appalled” at the implications for UK manufacturing.
It comes after the Government decided to make Siemens the preferred bidder to supply train carriages for the Thameslink route between Bedford and Brighton rather than rival Derby-based Bombardier.
The motion, signed by dozens of MPs, says the decision has led to more than 1,400 job losses at Bombardier and threatens 12,000 supply chain jobs. And it “calls on the Government immediately to review this decision to take into account the value for money implications of the loss of tens of thousands of UK jobs”.
That is despite Siemens promising up to 2,000 new jobs in the UK as a result of it winning the contract.
While train carriages will be built in Germany, around 600 highly-skilled roles involved in making train components will be created in the UK – including up to 300 at one of its plants in Hebburn, South Tyneside.
The majority of jobs are expected to start in 2013 with the first new carriages arriving in 2015.
North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon said: “I feel it was good that people working for Siemens in the North East are being given some hope through the contract.
“But the massive issue for the country is that with Bombardier not getting the major part of the contract, 1,400 jobs are lost.
“But moreover, the whole industry of building trains would be lost to this country. I feel it is about future jobs and having a manufacturing base.”
The Labour MP added: “We know with the shipyards here, once they are gone, they don’t come back.”
Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, also welcomed new jobs in the region – but added that such deals needed to be scrutinised more carefully.
The Department for Transport (DfT) last week said: “There has been conjecture that the Secretary of State is able to review the decision to make Siemens the preferred bidder and or to reverse the decision. This is not the case.”
The developments came as the Government was accused by a rail union leader of “added insult to injury” by spending £15m on consultants for the rail contract awarded to Siemens.
In a written answer to the Commons, Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said: “From May 2008, the department has spent approximately £13.1m (excluding VAT) to date on specialist consultants and advisers to evaluate the Thameslink Rolling Stock project.
“This resource has included financial, procurement, technical, legal, planning and other specialist advice required to deliver the Thameslink Rolling Stock Project, which is one of the largest rolling stock orders in the country.
“Of this figure, £5.3m has been spent since May 2010.”
Business Secretary Vince Cable this week met officials from Bombardier to discuss its plans after losing the lucrative contract. He also held talks with Derby Council and members of the economic taskforce dealing with the job losses.
During a visit to Derby, the Liberal Democrat said: “We will work closely with Bombardier, during their ongoing review, as they explore opportunities to keep their manufacturing base in the UK in the long term.”
Bob Crow, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “This money could have been invested in defending train manufacturing jobs in the UK, not filling the pockets of City consultancy spivs.”
Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “The bottom line is we are where we are in how the contracts are set out. You cannot go through a whole procurement process and then when the tender is awarded complain about the whole contract.”
He added: “I think it is a little bit late for the MPs to be complaining about that now however honourable their intentions are.”