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Cairns: Ladder of opportunity kicked away from DARA workers

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales.

"I thank the Minister for his report and thank and congratulate James Arbuthnott, as chairman of the Select Committee on Defence, which published such a damning report on the New Labour Government policy and on the effects that that policy has had on the employees at DARA St Athan and the surrounding communities.

The Minister has been coming here for more than 18 months to talk about DARA. It was not long before the last Assembly elections when he was trumpeting the great success of the investment placed into St Athan and how it would attract long-term jobs—the sort of jobs that we want in the Defence Aviation Repair Agency.

Then, just more than 12 months ago, we were debating and discussing the sell-off of DARA, following the sad decision to take fast-jet servicing outside Wales. Therefore, the Minister has been optimistic for some time.

I cannot believe his audacity in now claiming the Welsh Assembly Government's foresight and commitment to the site, in terms of acquiring the assets at St Athan.

He would almost swear that it was planned this way, that we were keeping this superhangar just in case the MOD pulled out. That is what he is really trying to tell us. Last spring, when the First Minister opened the superhangar, did he not say that the clouds would have been a lot blacker if we did not have the hangar?

Does that not tell you that there were already black clouds? That tells you that the prospects have not been good, which, in turn, tells you that thousands of jobs are being lost. Yes, some are being created, but only a small proportion in relation to those that have been lost.

Given the terms and conditions of DARA employees and the culture of the organisation, which specialises in fast-jet maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, the reality is that we are not that competitive in attracting commercial operations there.

Therefore, the Minister says that his objective is to attract a commercial operator in place of DARA's operations there, but that is clearly extremely difficult, bearing in mind how mobile and competitive this sector is. He really is whistling in the wind in terms of attracting commercial operations.

In any case, the UK Government still has not said how it is planning to dispose of DARA, and surely that is a stumbling block for his plans to attract them.

The sad fact is that the Labour Party, and the Minister specifically, do not like to hear the truth, and what I quoted about black clouds hanging over St Athan was what the First Minister said.

Of course, if the MOD could take only one decision to help and support Wales, the decision to keep the defence training rationalisation programme would be excellent news for the area.

It would not be a substitute for DARA, because it would bring jobs that require different sorts of skills and a different capacity to that at the St Athan site.

I would encourage the Minister to leave no stone unturned in trying to use that site for the defence training rationalisation programme. That is the least that the MOD could do bearing in mind how it has kicked the ladder of opportunity away from all the people at DARA, and that despite the optimistic tones of the Minister."

"Diolchaf i'r Gweinidog am ei adroddiad a diolch a llongyfarchiadau i James Arbuthnott, fel Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor Dethol ar Amddiffyn, a gyhoeddodd adroddiad mor ddamniol ar bolisi Llywodraeth Llafur Newydd ac ar yr effaith y mae'r polisi hwnnw wedi'i chael ar y gweithwyr yn DARA Sain Tathan ac ar y cymunedau cyfagos.

Mae'r Gweinidog wedi bod yn dod yma ers dros 18 mis i siarad am DARA. Ychydig cyn etholiadau diwethaf y Cynulliad pan oedd yn uchel ei gloch ynghylch llwyddiant mawr y buddsoddiad yn Sain Tathan a sut y byddai'n denu swyddi tymor hir—y math o swyddi yr ydym eu heisiau yn yr Asiantaeth Atgyweirio Awyrennau Amddiffyn.

Yna, ychydig dros 12 mis yn ôl, yr oeddem yn trafod gwerthu DARA, yn dilyn y penderfyniad trist i symud y gwaith o wasanaethu jetiau cyflym y tu allan i Gymru. Felly, mae'r Gweinidog wedi bod yn ffyddiog ers tro.

Ni allaf gredu ei haerllugrwydd yn honni bod Llywodraeth y Cynulliad wedi dangos gweledigaeth ac ymrwymiad i'r safle, o ran prynu'r asedau yn Sain Tathan. Byddai'n tyngu llw bron ei fod wedi'i gynllunio felly, ein bod wedi cadw'r awyrendy hwn rhag ofn i'r Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn dynnu allan.

Dyna'r hyn y mae'n ceisio ei ddweud wrthym mewn gwirionedd. Yn y Gwanwyn y llynedd, pan agorodd y Prif Weinidog yr awyrendy, oni ddywedodd y byddai'r cymylau wedi bod yn llawer duach pe na bai'r awyrendy gennym? Onid yw hynny'n dweud wrthych bod yno gymylau duon eisoes?

Mae hynny'n dweud wrthych na fu'r rhagolygon yn dda, sydd, yn ei dro, yn dweud wrthych bod miloedd o swyddi yn cael eu colli. Oes, mae rhai yn cael eu creu, ond dim ond cyfran fechan o'i gymharu â'r nifer sydd wedi eu colli.

Ac ystyried telerau ac amodau gweithwyr DARA a diwylliant y sefydliad, sy'n arbenigo mewn cynnal a chadw ac atgyweirio jetiau cyflym, y realiti yw nad ydym mor gystadleuol â hynny o ran denu gwaith masnachol yno.

Felly, dywed y Gweinidog mai ei amcan yw denu gweithredwr masnachol i ddod yno yn lle DARA, ond mae hynny'n amlwg yn bur anodd, a chofio pa mor symudol a chystadleuol yw'r sector hwn. Yr oll y mae'n ei wneud mewn gwirionedd yw gobeithio'n ofer o ran gallu denu gwaith masnachol.

Sut bynnag, nid yw Llywodraeth y DU wedi dweud eto sut y mae'n bwriadu cael gwared â DARA, ac mae hynny'n sicr o fod yn faen tramgwydd i'w gynlluniau i'w denu.

Y ffaith drist amdani yw nad yw'r Blaid Lafur, a'r Gweinidog yn benodol, yn hoffi clywed y gwir, ac yr oedd yr hyn a ddywedais am gymylau duon yn hongian dros Sain Tathan ond yn ailadrodd yr hyn a ddywedodd y Prif Weinidog.

Wrth gwrs, pe gallai'r Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn wneud ond un penderfyniad i helpu a chefnogi Cymru, byddai penderfynu cadw'r rhaglen i symleiddio hyfforddiant amddiffyn yn newyddion gwych i'r ardal.

Ni fyddai'n disodli DARA, oherwydd byddai'n creu swyddi sy'n gofyn am wahanol fathau o sgiliau a chapasiti gwahanol i'r hyn a geir ar y safle yn Sain Tathan. Byddwn yn pwyso ar y Gweinidog i wneud popeth yn ei allu i geisio defnyddio'r safle yno ar gyfer y rhaglen symleiddio hyfforddiant amddiffyn. Dyna'r lleiaf y gallai'r Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn ei wneud a chofio sut y sathrodd ar gyfleoedd yr holl weithwyr yn DARA, a hynny er gwaethaf geiriau ffyddiog y Gweinidog."

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