Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) (Con)
I beg to move,
That this House has considered procurement and the UK defence industry.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Davies. I should start by declaring an interest, in that my partner is a serving member of the armed forces and currently deployed overseas.
When the UK left the European Union at the beginning of 2020, the Conservative Government had the chance to deliver a stronger, better, independent Britain, built on the principles of sovereignty, security and prosperity. Two years later, the UK has time and again proven that it has done that, most recently through our instrumental support of Ukraine in Europe’s most significant war in recent memory. The importance of the UK armed forces has been highlighted in a way that cements their vitality and necessity and confirms that the UK can now retain its autonomy and sovereignty, further bettering our nation.
Away from the confinements of the European Union and the European procurement directive, we can commit to improving and harnessing the potential of UK defence. Procurement of defence weapons is critical to strong armed forces. Procurement of high-quality, trusted, organically sourced defence weapons is instrumental in world-class armed forces. Each year, the Ministry of Defence spends billions of pounds buying new equipment and supporting existing equipment for the armed forces. That is a substantial amount of money, but never before has ensuring that our defence capabilities are world class been more important. There are challenges to acquiring defence equipment: it is expensive, complex and subject to politics. However, locally sourced, organic procurement is a sure way of supporting the British armed forces, our local communities and our allies.
In the last two years, the Government have significantly altered their priorities, as attested to by the integrated review, the defence Command Paper and the defence and security industrial strategy. In accordance with the DSIS, the UK is adopting a new strategic framework for the MOD’s procurement and acquisitions programme. That will be a dramatic but necessary change. No longer will we follow the policy of competition by default. Instead, we will adopt a more flexible approach that assesses procurement on a case-by-case basis. By outlining our strategic imperatives, such as nuclear and offensive cyber, the Government recognise that there is a strength to retaining defence industries on UK shores. That not only aids us from a national security point of view, but allows businesses to direct their innovation to areas where the Government have demonstrated an interest.
In my constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire, the armed forces are celebrated widely. In my constituency, I am proud to have Brecon barracks, the home of the Army in Wales, and to represent the strong military community that comes with it. In fact, I think I am one of the few Members of the House whose constituency has RAF, Navy and Army sites.
In addition to having the barracks, we are fortunate to be home to innovative defence procurement businesses. This week, I have had the pleasure of speaking to Compact Orbital Gears, based in Rhayader, and Charcroft Electronics, both of which work in the defence procurement industry. Each deals with different elements of the defence procurement supply chain, and produces and distributes to major companies in the UK and abroad. Charcroft Electronics is a distributor and manufacturer of electronic components and specialises in high reliability and harsh environments. It supports programmes such as Typhoon and the Brimstone missile system, which is being deployed in Ukraine. It is proud to be a 100% UK-based company, and it employs 76 people in Wales, plus a further four in England—they are not lucky enough to work in Wales. Charcroft Electronics and Compact Orbital Gears are excellent examples of British companies working to better British security by supplying to our defence industry. UK companies working for UK national security is a strength, the fact of which should not be minimised.
The invasion of Ukraine has laid bare the strength of our armed forces, and it is right that we are proud of that and continue to use our strength to remain a key voice in NATO and ensure the safety of our partner countries. Our seat in NATO and every other major organisation, such as the G7, the UN Security Council and the G20, proves our multilateral influence and should inspire the Government to further commit to British procurement for British security, to protect us and to continue our international influence. To do that, we must keep supporting the UK defence procurement industry. To do that, we must keep supporting the UK defence procurement industry. We will be supporting not only ourselves, but our allies and, critically, the communities that rely on that industry.