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May 1, 2009 2:17 PM

A senior Newcastle Liberal Democrat has called on Government minister for the North East Nick Brown to do more to clarify Government procurement plans.

Councillor Greg Stone, Parliamentary spokesman for Newcastle East, spoke out after it was announced that BAE Systems are set to cut up to 500 jobs due to the postponement of an MoD order for armoured utility vehicles,

The company has announced that some jobs will go at the Scotswood Road factory in Newcastle, although it is expected that other plants will bear the brunt of losses.

The news comes after the Government announced the postponement in December of a planned order for up to 2,000 replacement armoured utility and engineering vehicles for the armed forces.

Greg Stone, who will challenge Nick Brown at the next General Election, said: "It is clearly very important that our military personnel have access to suitably protected vehicles which they need to carry out operations in combat zones like Afghanistan.

"However, the MoD are putting jobs at risk by failing to follow through on proposals to place new contracts.

"It is understandable that changing circumstances in deployment zones like Iraq may require a rethink, but the Government has given out mixed messages on its requirement for these vehicles.

"The armed forces have an identified need for this equipment, but the Government's postponement of the programme is having serious consequences for jobs on Tyneside and elsewhere.

"I call on the Minister for the North East to set out what he is doing to safeguard these highly skilled jobs, and urge him to lobby for the MoD to implement a phased procurement programme which would allow at least an initial order to be placed in respect of this contract.

"Further delay could lead to further jobs being put under threat."