Bribed MoD official 'cost armaments industry 1,000 jobs': Staff say work sent abroad could have been done in UK

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GORDON Foxley, the Ministry of Defence official convicted of accepting bribes, has caused more damage to Britain's hard-pressed armaments industry than was first feared.

Workers at the Royal Ordnance factory in Blackburn, Lancashire, now believe that more than 1,000 jobs may have been lost through Foxley awarding orders to overseas firms in return for pounds 1.5m in backhanders. They have written to the Prime Minister demanding that the MoD immediately scrap contracts with three of the firms and return the business to Britain.

They name Gebruder Junghans of Germany, Fratelli Borletti of Italy and Norway's AS Raufoss as all having received work that could have been done by Royal Ordnance. All three were listed at Mr Foxley's trial three weeks ago, as having made secret payments to the ex- MoD procurement official. A trade union working party at the Blackburn factory has identified orders which Royal Ordnance was denied the chance of winning:

Five contracts given to Fratelli for mechanical fuses;

Orders to Raufoss for proximity fuses;

The DM111A3 fuse contract with Junghans.

All the orders were for the type of product made at Blackburn, which has seen its workforce plummet from 2,700 to 270 in the past 20 years. Steve Wallis, a member of the working party, said yesterday: 'Blackburn was told by Foxley's office that there was no longer a requirement for the development of proximity fuses at the very time contracts were going out to Raufoss. We want compensation in real terms for what was perpetrated by his crimes at the MoD.'

Mr Wallis confirmed that as reported in the Independent, the Junghans order would have employed 450 people in Blackburn. However, he said that if the Fratelli and Raufoss deals were added, the number of jobs lost exceeded 1,000.

In a series of parliamentary questions, Jack Straw, Labour's environment spokesman and MP for Blackburn, has asked Malcolm Rifkind, the Secretary of State for Defence, to 'list all orders for fuses, ammunition and other equipment placed by or on behalf of his department with Gebruder Junghans of Germany, A S Raufoss of Norway and Fratelli Borletti of Italy'.

Mr Straw has demanded to know whether the deals were also placed without inviting bids from other suppliers. He has asked Mr Rifkind what steps he is taking to cancel Foxley's existing contracts. Mr Straw said last night: 'It is time for the Government to come clean about the human cost to the country and to my own constituency of Foxley's actions.'

Mr Straw has also written to Jonathan Aitken, the defence procurement minister, asking why the contracts have not been terminated. 'I am sure you will appreciate how seriously the workforce, many former employees, and the whole town feels about this matter.'

Foxley's sentence was delayed until next month pending medical reports. He faces a maximum of 24 years.

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