A NEW report claims the North-South divide is alive and well within the corridors of power at the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The survey reveals that funding for research and development within the defence sector is biased towards the South, according to its authors - to the tune of £364m.

The research, undertaken by defence experts, reveals a mere 0.42 per cent of all Government-funded research and development (R&D) is in the North-East.

Report author Ian Goudie, of the North East Defence Diversification Project (NEDDP), said: "The South receives almost half of the Government R&D - worth an estimated £367m, while the North-East receives only £3m.

"Defence cuts have already disproportionately fallen in the North-East with the loss of £550m per annum from defence spending, and the loss of 15,000 direct jobs since the end of the Cold War.

"These figures reveal that as the defence industry continues to become more technologically advanced, the industrial North-East will continue to lose jobs."

But the MoD said the contracts for MoD procurement and R&D are broadly delivered on a best value basis, although wider issues are taken into account.

Dr Andy Pike of the Centre for Urban Regional Development Studies (Curds) at the University of Newcastle said: "While defence spending is not the major cause of the general shift of economic activity to the South, it increasingly has the effect of rewarding those regions, which are already advantageously placed."

The report comes as talks to save the jobs more than 200 defence workers at Aerospace Systems and technologies (AS&T) in Consett continue.

Receivers Ernst & Young confirmed that the company, which, ironically, appears to be suffering from an over-full order book, is continuing to trade while a buyer is sought