Let The Force Be With You

The decision to base the new National Cyber Force on the BAE site at Samlesbury, is a real shot in the arm for the region, writes Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans

The most seismic announcement to hit Lancashire was made a few weeks ago, amidst much jubilation and joy for all who have been involved in the most energetic lobbying I have ever experienced.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, announced that the new National Cyber Force was to be based at BAE’s Samlesbury site – an unparalleled victory for Lancashire. It is an enormous jobs boost for the county and an immense investment of colossal proportions.

It was many months earlier that I learnt that the Prime Minister wanted to see this force sited out of London as part of the levelling up exercise. It could have gone almost anywhere but I and other local MPs wanted it in the North West and preferably Lancashire. Boris Johnson let it be known that his preference was for it to come to the North West but that we would be up against the mighty city of Manchester in the lengthy and complicated bidding war that ensued.

I spoke with Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons and my neighbouring MP. Lindsay told me he would back the Lancashire bid 100 per cent and lobby personally at every level. He was superb and saw the Ribble Valley site as being one that would offer Lancashire the best shot at winning. All the other local MPs were also on side.

Sir Lindsay and I spoke to the PM on several occasions, on one occasion Boris came to the Speaker’s apartments with a team to listen to our case. I had assembled a dossier full of facts about the advantages of our area, including brilliant logistics, great schools, good housing, a fantastic region in which to bring up children and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the doorstep!

We flattened counter arguments that there was insufficient power supply to the site, a lack of parking (this is an ex-airfield) and that local schools and universities could not turn out sufficient highly-trained youngsters who would be suitable for the amazing, but challenging, jobs that would be created.

BAE threw their weight behind the bid and offered immediate facilities so there would be no lengthy wait for the National Cyber Force to be able to start its essential work. I know this site well too and the security the Force will need is already being provided by BAE due to the nature of its research and development plus manufacturing of some of the most highly advanced aircraft in the world.

The Local Enterprise Partnerships and Local Authorities also got behind the bid ensuring that the main parties making the final decision would know that no stone would be left unturned to assist the Force when planning and building takes place. We also have Fulwood Barracks, which will be able to supply immediate housing to military personnel coming north.

Why you may ask were so many groups of people so interested in this bid coming to the Ribble Valley. What does it mean for us?

This is a £5 billion investment over 10 years with eventually 3,000 plus highly paid and highly skilled jobs being created. There will be a huge multiplier of more than 10,000 extra jobs created in providing services to the site and to the people coming to live here. It will be a massive boost to hospitality too, with hotels, restaurants and the service trade getting their share of this huge investment. Raw materials and building skills will be sourced in the region and educational establishments will see increased demand for tailored tuition and training necessary to supply this new demand.

This site will also act as a magnet for other businesses to look to the area to supply this new centre and supply other businesses flocking to this site. All in all, this investment is the biggest vote of confidence that anyone has seen in Lancashire since BAE set up here decades ago – and look at the huge number of businesses that came to Lancashire in its wake – and they are still here.

From a personal point of view, I could not be happier. This is the best news I have had in nearly 30 years here as the MP.

I am also delighted that our county will be home to a Force that will be pro-active in defending our country from the enormous growth in attacks from people, organisations, terrorists and some countries that wish to do us harm. The joined-up, high-tech nature of the way we live our lives needs to be defended and those who wish us evil must know we will come after them and fight fire with fire. Lancashire is doing its bit to keep the UK and its citizens safe.

We all know that those who live in the Ribble Valley are among the happiest in the UK and the PM has just made a section of this wonderful country even happier! So, welcome to the Ribble Valley – home to the National Cyber Force – and home to a lot of smiling, happy people. Here’s to our future and safety and may the force be with us all.



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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