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Rediff.com  » News » Hoon basks in AJT glory

Hoon basks in AJT glory

September 26, 2003 14:51 IST

UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has been branded a hypocrite and a liar by the lawyer for the family of weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

But the embattled politician, who is in danger of losing his job because of the Kelly affair, is a hero for the staff at BAE Systems that has won a £1 billion order from the Indian government.

Also see: CCS clears Advanced Jet Trainer deal

On Thursday, Jeremy Gompertz QC criticised Hoon and the Ministry of Defence for 'duplicity' and 'a cynical abuse of power' in using Dr Kelly as a pawn in the government's battle with the BBC, and urged Lord Hutton to condemn the defence secretary's role in the affair when his report into the scientist's death is published in six weeks.

Fortunately, the withering attack on Hoon was launched as he toured the BAE Systems plant at Brough in East Yorkshire, where the staff is delighted after receiving two massive orders, one from the UK government and the other from India, ending years of uncertainty and ensuring the future of the 2,000-strong workforce.

The news of the Ministry of Defence order was followed three weeks ago by New Delhi finally agreeing to a £1bn deal after 18 years of negotiations.

During his visit, several workers personally thanked and praised Hoon, who despite being at the centre of the Dr David Kelly controversy, looked relaxed and was laughing and joking with the staff.

After touring the factory and talking to workers involved in manufacturing the Hawk jet, Hoon said: "I am delighted to come here to talk to the workforce because in the end it was the quality of the workforce that I believe to have been the decisive factor.''

He said he was pleased that the order from India had followed so quickly after the British government's announcement. "There has always been a long-term commitment to Hawk. This is the world's most successful training aircraft.''

The contract with the Indian government may now even see the plant having to recruit more staff, to deal with an order that will take at least three years to complete.

The Indian deal is for 66 jets. The first 24 planes will be manufactured at Brough, which specialises in wing and fuselage manufacture, and the remainder in Bangalore, India, which will involve staff from the plant passing on the expertise to HAL.

The other £800m UK Ministry of Defence deal involves buying 20 aircraft initially, with options to buy up to another 24 in the future. It came at the end of July, just in the nick of time to lift the threat of redundancy for 470 British workers.

 

Shyam Bhatia in London