In My View - 20th October

Research shows that the benefits of infrastructure investment are most felt in areas which actively seek to capitalise on it, with possibilities for housing, skills and jobs. With the upcoming dualling of the A303 there is a golden opportunity for us to seek a step change in outlook for our area.

For several years now I have been working us into a position where we can put forward some of these proposals and garner substantial new inward investment. There are opportunities to do that in a way that enhances our environment and prospects for our whole area, including support for our core industries like rotorcraft, and I look forward to discussing these with local councils, residents and stakeholders over the coming months.

Within that wider context it was important to meet GKN employees and their families as I did last week to listen to their concerns about the potential restructuring of the Yeovil unit if its Wildcat airframe manufacturing comes to an end, and hear what kind of support they want from their MP and the Government. I'm determined to do whatever I can to help, either finding work for or within GKN, or exploring opportunities elsewhere. I have already met with Defence Procurement Minister Harriet Baldwin and I am also meeting with Leonardo, GKN, Boeing and union representatives to help secure the future of the aerospace industry in Yeovil. I believe it is important for the UK to keep a full skill set in helicopter manufacturing.

The Defence Secretary has told me he is committed to supporting the helicopter industry in Yeovil. The MoD has signed a new partnering deal with Leonardo which will continue to play a vital role in supporting helicopter fleets for the Armed Forces as well as helping enable new product development, and Leonardo is set to benefit from around £3bn of MoD spending over the next decade.

I will be meeting with the Prime Minister and the Skills Minister to discuss ways we can enhance infrastructure-led investment and further ensure highly skilled workers can continue to find opportunities in our region, making sure we deliver on our commitment to creating a country that works for everyone.

Leonardo will continue to support Merlin and Wildcat, two of our five main helicopter fleets, to 2030 and beyond, as well as the current Apache helicopters for the next eight years under their contract which was recently extended. There are further current opportunities for them to grow this service and support part of their business and I would encourage them to do so.

I was inspired this week by a visit to Yeovil Women and Girls' Rugby Club where they showed what a great tool a nice family club can be in gaining confidence and mutual support on and off the field. The Rugby Club is a fantastic facility we should all try to use more and support our women and Girls on a Sunday and the men on a Saturday.

Thanks to all who attended my Pensioners Information and Advice Fair in Yeovil last weekend. It was a great success with new friends made and some excellent ideas about service provision coming out of it.