There have been 20 exchanges between Jeremy Quin and Ministry of Defence
|Mon 1st February 2021||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (748 words)|
|Wed 16th December 2020||Defence Manufacturing and Procurement: Shropshire (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,691 words)|
|Mon 7th December 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||20 interactions (545 words)|
|Tue 1st December 2020||Defence Procurement and Supply Chains (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (2,046 words)|
|Tue 10th November 2020||Armed Forces: Covid-19 Deployment (Urgent Question)||61 interactions (3,474 words)|
|Mon 2nd November 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||33 interactions (550 words)|
|Thu 15th October 2020||Ministry of Defence Tenants: Evictions||6 interactions (1,736 words)|
|Wed 14th October 2020||RAF Valley: Funding and Employment (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,618 words)|
|Mon 21st September 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (448 words)|
|Mon 6th July 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||15 interactions (262 words)|
|Mon 16th March 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||41 interactions (886 words)|
|Wed 26th February 2020||Cawdor Barracks (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,001 words)|
|Tue 25th February 2020||UK Armed Forces: Wales’s Contribution (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,221 words)|
|Mon 9th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (36 words)|
|Thu 21st June 2018||Defence Fire and Rescue Project: Capita||3 interactions (41 words)|
|Mon 11th June 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (76 words)|
|Mon 23rd April 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||7 interactions (76 words)|
|Mon 5th March 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (44 words)|
|Mon 15th January 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (31 words)|
|Fri 23rd October 2015||Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill||3 interactions (26 words)|
The National Audit Office recently concluded that for the fourth year in a row the defence equipment plan remains unaffordable. While the extra money for defence is to be welcomed, how will the Minister ensure that the investment does not simply disappear into a black hole but delivers on the new capabilities we need as a nation to deal with emerging security threats?
The defence equipment plan has seen escalating costs over time, and agreeing priorities has proved to be difficult. The NAO says that industry has a prioritised list of funding options following a multi-criteria decision analysis exercise. This sounds worth while, if a bit of a mouthful, so will the Minister commit to publishing that list of priorities?
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We face a climate crisis, and we must build back greener out of the pandemic. Will the Government undertake to do more to increase investment in research and development in low-emission planes and ships, working in collaboration with the civil sector? Will he meet me and Airbus, and others, to discuss the opportunities to boost innovation and production of non-military planes and ships—like the US does with Boeing—to help us meet our net-zero obligations? Will he boost exports, so that defence expenditure can be used to defend us against climate change?
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Beautiful Hastings and Rye has a number of excellent small to medium-sized manufacturing businesses serving the defence industry. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that, as part of defence procurement and the levelling-up agenda, those small companies are given the opportunity to benefit from any increase in defence procurement spending, thereby increasing jobs and helping to turbo-charge our local economy?
What progress has been made with the upgrade of the British armoured vehicle capability? What are the Government doing to ensure that those contracts are fulfilled by British-based manufacturers such as David Brown Santasalo, which is based in my constituency?
So many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, including aerospace and engineering companies in Wolverhampton North East. I am delighted to hear about more and more procurement contracts. What steps is the Minister taking to start as many of those contracts as quickly as possible, so that we can really help our industrial economic recovery?
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. As my right hon. Friend considers his review priorities, will he commend the Warrior capability sustainment programme for providing greater certainty in delivering on its budget and greater confidence that that will be delivered on time, and for its commitment to developing skills and the UK supply chain? (911656)
I recently met a veteran with untreated post-traumatic stress disorder. He attempted suicide twice using disturbing methods in public. After the first attempt, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, released unwell and then attempted suicide again. For that, he received a prison sentence. On release, he was left homeless, jobless and in no better mental state than when he went in. Is this in keeping with the covenant, and if not, what are the Government going to do about it? (911658)
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Babcock International aerospace staff at RAF Leeming are currently on strike over a £5,000 pay disparity with colleagues performing the same duties at other bases. Does the Secretary of State agree that this pay injustice is wrong, and will he join me in calling for Babcock to engage meaningfully with Unite the union to resolve this dispute and end the disruption to training flight schedules? (911661)
I welcome the improvements to the service justice system that are part of the new Armed Forces Bill. Many serving personnel have been put off complaining by the existing system, and the time it takes to proceed with their complaint. Can the Minister confirm that both current and new complaints will be dealt with in a more timely manner, to not only help the mental health of the complainant but improve military operational effectiveness? (911663)
I beg to move,
That this House has considered defence manufacturing and procurement in Shropshire.
I thank Mr Speaker for allowing me the opportunity to bring this issue to the House’s attention. I am particularly pleased that the Minister of State is in his place, and look forward to his response to today’s debate.
Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin, are fast becoming a crucial defence hub. Of course, there is a lot of defence history in Shropshire, which many Members will know about, but on the manufacturing side Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin, are very much becoming a geographical engineering cluster that feeds not only the UK defence market, but the wider European defence manufacturing and procurement sector. I am proud that Shropshire continues to play its part in UK defence manufacturing, with existing contracts for Boxer and Warrior vehicles, and hopefully the Challenger 2 life extension programme.
The defence sector, locally and nationally, continues to grow under a Conservative Government. We should not ignore that material fact, for as you know, Mrs Miller, it is only with a strong defence that any country can have a strong peace. Defence manufacturing is an important part of the UK’s strong defence, and I am pleased that on 19 November, the Prime Minister committed the UK to increasing its defence budget—the largest boost in the nation’s defence for the past 30 years, and indeed the biggest increase post world war two—investing an extra £24 billion in our national security and sustaining and creating thousands of jobs across the UK, including in Shropshire. It is the biggest investment in the nation’s defence since the end of the cold war, which is fantastic news for the nation as a whole, and specifically for my constituents in The Wrekin.
The Minister will know that BAE Systems employs 300 people in Telford, and spends more than £6 million in the midlands supply chain and in the region as a whole, based at Hadley Castle Works. I am grateful that he took the time to visit my constituency some months ago and meet with many of these dedicated engineers, as well as those who manage the business. Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land is a very welcome joint venture between Rheinmetall and BAE Systems, designing, manufacturing and maintaining combat vehicles at Hadley Castle Works, with Rheinmetall owning a 55% stake in the joint venture and BAE Systems owning 45%. That joint venture will sustain a skilled workforce of about 450 employees across the UK, including those engineers based at RBSL in Telford. General Dynamics Land Systems—Force Protection Europe’s manufacturing spares facility is also based in my constituency.
Then, of course, there is GKN, a manufacturer of off-highway wheels also based at Hadley Castle Works. GKN has had some challenges in recent years, but I hope that, whether it is under the current ownership of GKN or a future, different ownership, that site and the skill set there will be retained, not only for Shropshire but for the UK defence sector as a whole. It is important that GKN is supported, too. We also have Lockheed Martin, currently delivering the Warrior capability sustainment programme—the demonstration contract, that is—and that is welcome too. Babcock International, the defence engineering business, has a site in Donnington, and in April Babcock was awarded a contract to manufacture 10,000 ventilators to help to control the covid-19 pandemic. I pay tribute to all the workforce there and to the wider MOD staff at all those facilities—whether civilian or non-civilian, uniform or non-uniform —at MOD Donnington and RAF Cosford, as well as the private sector companies I have mentioned.
I want to put on the record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), who quite rightly is a champion of Caterpillar Defence, based in Shrewsbury, which as the Minister knows specialises in the design and development of engine and drivetrain packages to meet the needs of many of the tracked and wheeled military vehicles that the MOD uses. Of course, there are myriad local supply chains and small and medium-sized enterprises, and I am delighted that the Government have committed to getting more small businesses into defence supply chains.
We have had very welcome news about Boxer. It is designed to transport troops to the frontline and was described as a “leader in its field” by the Secretary of State for Defence, no less, and of course he is absolutely right. Over the next 10 years, RBSL will build 260 Boxer vehicles—almost half the British Army’s fleet, I hasten to add—in Telford at the Hadley site. That contract, worth £860 million, will create and sustain 200-plus skilled jobs in the area, and probably more. RBSL officially received its manufacturing subcontract just a few weeks ago. That was a very welcome pre-Christmas present, but the real Christmas present would be if the Minister were to announce today that the life extension of Challenger 2 is going ahead, and that much of that programme will be required to be delivered in my constituency.
Of course, we have the integrated review at the moment, and it is important that we have it to look at the whole piece, covering defence, foreign policy, diplomacy and intelligence—the whole gamut of how Governments protect themselves and project their own values and interests around the world. Hybrid warfare, information technology, the National Cyber Force, which is now public, and unmanned aerial vehicles are all vital, but at the end of the day there is still a requirement for hard kit—not just boots on the ground, but metal on the ground too. I hope that that is metal in the form of Challenger having its life extended and being delivered in, of course, Shropshire. The Boxer vehicles will be delivered in 2023, so the timeframe is quite short, but I have absolutely no doubt that they will be delivered on time.
The contract has been secured for RBSL’s main upcoming programme—the mechanised infantry vehicle programme—and I understand from the research done by my office that the Challenger 2 life extension programme will support 60 local suppliers. Covid has had an impact, albeit at the moment not a huge impact, but every job lost in my constituency is a job loss too many. There have been job losses since March. We have seen an upward tick in job losses in the constituency, and it would be great to have new job announcements to fight those unemployment figures.
Lockheed Martin is in charge of Warrior, the fighting vehicle capability and sustainment programme. Locally, we are seeing more and more people in our universities, including Wolverhampton and the new university campus in Shrewsbury—not so much Harper Adams, because that is mostly agritech—and more young people in the region being interested in defence manufacturing and a career in defence. Another fresh, good announcement would help a lot of those young people to make the right career choice.
The life extension programme is a UK MOD programme to deliver the next generation of heavy armoured capability. It is important to put that the record, but I know the Minister knows that. The programme will deliver Challenger 3, a network-enabled digital main battle tank that will reinvigorate the UK’s and Shropshire’s design and engineering skills. That digital element is critical and feeds into other Government streams of thinking. As I am sure the British Army would say, it will deliver a world-class capability, generating significant export opportunities and support for global Britain, and the UK’s wider economic growth. The maintenance of Challenger 2 will be carried out by Babcock Defence Support Group, which supports my constituents.
The Minister kindly answered a question that I put to him at the last Defence questions. I will quote it back to him, which is always a novelty. He said:
“The proposition is now being worked up prior to a decision being taken on the investment case.”—[Official Report, 7 December 2020; Vol. 685, c. 557.]
I understand that we are in the midst of the timetable where such decisions are being made. I am pretty sure that this debate is being held after some of those important decisions, rather than before. Perhaps the timing of this debate is purely coincidental, but I would proffer that it is not. I hope the Minister is therefore in a position to enlighten the Chamber today on the progress of the life extension programme.
As the Minister will be aware, RBSL won the contract for the Fuchs chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear reconnaissance vehicles and training simulator earlier this year. It will sustain the British Army’s fleet of reconnaissance vehicles and the training simulator. The contract has been awarded. Again, Hadley is playing its part, sustaining hundreds of jobs. That vehicle, with its built-in detection equipment for chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, is absolutely critical.
I want to give the Minister plenty of time to respond. Of course, every Member of Parliament rightly defends and speaks out for their constituency, but it is a matter of fact that the defence engineering skill set and the geographical cluster of those skills—to use management speak—in Telford and Wrekin in Shropshire is there for everybody to see. It does not make sense, whatever advocacy make take place for other parts of the country, for this work to go elsewhere, only for companies to struggle to recruit or relocate a workforce.
I put the case that if the Ministry of Defence wants to move quickly on a programme that is vital for the UK armed forces and the British Army, which will be the user, it makes sense to deliver it where the skills are, where the workforce is committed and where there is a history of dedication to Her Majesty’s armed forces, both in uniform and out of uniform.
Last month, UK Steel criticised the opaque procurement processes involved in the defence sector. I know the Government will agree that UK steel is vital to our national interests. Will Ministers therefore set clear and transparent objectives regarding UK steel in defence projects and commit to engaging with the industry early, meaningfully and often in the procurement process?
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The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has argued forcefully for defence orders to be brought forward to help our industry through the economic crisis, especially in our regions and nations. The Navy carrier group needs the fleet solid support ships, and the Department has the specifications from the previous bidding round. It is a project that is really shovel or welding-ready, so when is the Secretary of State going to get off his backside and start ordering these ships? [Interruption.] He may even want to intervene and answer himself.
The country has a vaccine for covid-19, and it will be rolled out as a matter of urgency to save lives. The Ministry of Defence has had approval for funding the defence industry. Will the Minister, as a matter of urgency, roll out the FSS and other shovel-ready defence projects now, not wait until to the summer, to give a real shot in the arm to the defence industry, and to retain thousands of jobs and create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships for new technology graduates, as well as to support British workers and use the springboard of the British defence industry to lead the country out of this covid recession?
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The Minister will be aware of the excellent Shropshire defence engineers who have recently been awarded an £860 million project for the Boxer vehicle delivered through RBSL—Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land. Would he like to put on record his thanks to all those in defence engineering in Shropshire and perhaps allude to the fact that, should the contract be awarded in the west midlands, it might be going to Shropshire?
The Minister’s rhetoric is excellent, but in terms of the practicalities for fleet solid support ships, for Rolls-Royce, and the supply chain and the lift-fan blades for the STOL engines for the F-35 Lightning fighter, will the Minister recognise the important role of Government in giving direction to companies such as Rolls-Royce to ensure that that work is carried out here in the United Kingdom? It is part of our sovereign defence plan to ensure that we have security of supply over these vital components.
We have an excellent MOD contractor in Thales in Belfast, which I know the Minister is aware of. It is very much involved in cyber-security. I encourage the Minister, when looking towards cyber-security contracts and procurement for the future, to note that Thales could perhaps very much feature in that.
This is absurd. We know what the requirement is. It has already been out to one tender. The only argument was about whether it was a warship. Why are the Government still dithering? Why do they not get the order there, let companies bid in and let their suppliers know and start tooling up and getting supply chains working? Why can they not get a move on?
Last Monday, ahead of the new national lockdown in England, I said to the Defence Secretary:
“If he is willing to make further use of the forces this time, this House and the public will back him.”—[Official Report, 2 November 2020; Vol. 683, c. 7.]
The Minister has said 341 MACA requests for help have been in place since mid-March. People want to know now what the plan is; they have a right to know and they have a right to regular ministerial reporting of such decisions, which would also help to build better public understanding and support for our military.
From Friday, 2,000 troops have been deployed to Liverpool, which is double the number we have posted in Afghanistan. Mayor Joe Anderson told me last night that they are delighted to have them, for their sheer numbers and their logistical expertise. He said they had set up 17 centres and had done 23,170 tests in just 72 hours. Is the MOD willing to agree similar MACA support for other local authority areas?
The city-wide testing, of course, is to find people with covid who are infectious, but asymptomatic, and then to ensure that they isolate and do not infect others. That requires regular, routine and continual testing. How sustainable is that deployment? When will the 2,000 troops start to be withdrawn? How scalable is the deployment? Which other cities and towns will also benefit?
The Minister said that 7,500 troops are already on stand-by as part of what he called the winter support force. Our adversaries will watch the extent to which our forces are focused on covid. Will the Minister therefore confirm that it has had no impact so far on forces’ training, standing commitments or capabilities to respond to conflicts and threats?
Finally, the Government have raised the whole country’s hopes with the news of the Pfizer vaccine, but it is vaccinations, not vaccines, that will protect people from the virus. Getting the vaccine to the point of vaccination requires storing and transporting it at -70°C. How is the military involved in planning for nationwide vaccination? Will the military be involved in its delivery? How soon will it start?
If the Government do now make more use of our armed forces to help fight covid, that will be widely welcomed.
It is a long time since I served in the armed forces, but one lesson I took from my service was that headquarters command and control is absolutely vital when going through an operation. I note, when I look at what is happening on test and trace, that there are now four centres—the Joint Biosecurity Centre in the DHSC, the National Covid Response Centre, the covid taskforce in the Cabinet Office and the covid data analysis directorate—each with its own director general and none under a single enforceable chain of command. Given that the chain of command at headquarters level is vital, and that a three or four-star general would be required in a military operation, will the Minister please tell me whether the Government have at any stage asked the MOD to implement a chain of command and headquarters command and control for the whole of test and trace, to make sure that it is now co-ordinated and active? If not, why not?
I thank the shadow Secretary of State for tabling the urgent question. Like others, I put on the record the thanks of the Scottish National party to the armed forces for what they have done in this crisis, not least in my home city of Glasgow with the Louisa Jordan hospital.
May I ask the Minister two specific things? Will he outline how many of the 341 requests he mentioned came from Scotland and, perhaps at a later stage, from where? On the vaccination programme that the shadow Secretary of State mentioned, the Minister will recall that, at the start of this crisis, the armed forces being deployed across the country became an ideal opportunity for our adversaries to spread disinformation, which led to much panic buying in supermarkets and subsequent shortages of food and other items. Will he lay before the House—perhaps not today, but at some point—what the country can expect to see from the armed forces in a future vaccination roll-out, so that it does not catch us by surprise and, crucially, so that it cannot be weaponised against our fellow citizens?
Given that planning for sudden, fast-moving events and surges is part of our military’s stock in trade, why have they not been more involved in planning since the outset, especially given the comparison with all those costly and failing private contractors?
NHS Test and Trace has grown from literally zero to being the size of Asda in little more than six months, and it would be difficult to imagine an organisation that has grown so quickly that would not be organisationally challenged. May I suggest that if the MOD has not been asked for headquarters capability, it should offer headquarters capability to NHS Test and Trace, as I am sure it would be welcomed with open arms?
The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff has said that Defence should no longer be considered a “last resort option”, something that was formalised in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, which announced that
“we will place military planners in key government departments to give the military a wider and more formal role in supporting national resilience contingency planning.”
If that is the case, why have the armed forces been deployed in such a limited way throughout this pandemic?
May I ask the Minister to pay particular tribute to the science and to the scientists working at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, and to the important role they are playing? As we see this increased visibility domestically from our armed forces, is it helping with the important task of recruitment into our armed forces?
Greetings from the far north of Scotland. May I remind the House that a member of my close family is serving with the armed forces?
Many of our overseas armed forces personnel are working in an extremely challenging environment, owing to the present pandemic. May I ask what Her Majesty’s Government are doing on PPE and testing for these extremely hard-working people?
There can be no better week than this for all of us to take the time to recognise and thank the armed forces for their contribution. Does my hon. Friend agree that the reservists have also been playing an incredibly important role, and will he join me in thanking them for their contribution in the battle against coronavirus?
I learned earlier in the pandemic that four MACA requests had been made from Northern Ireland; three were satisfied and a commercial alternative was found to the other. I am pleased that those applications were progressed positively without immature political interference from some members of the Northern Ireland Executive. Will the Minister confirm whether there has been a recent request regarding testing on a larger scale in Northern Ireland, and that, should there be, the MOD would respond positively?
So much of the military’s work is done behind the scenes. It has been really helpful to hear today in how many areas they are already deployed in the fight against the pandemic, but will my hon. Friend assure me that the critical tasks for the defence of this nation are not being compromised by all the work that is being done for covid?
I echo the shadow Secretary of State’s thanks for the professionalism of the armed services personnel and the help that my constituents have received. We in Liverpool really do appreciate it.
The mass testing pilot in Liverpool is due to be reviewed after 10 days to two weeks. Does the Minister accept that more time will be needed to meet the objectives of testing everyone? If so, will he ensure that the pilot remains in place in Liverpool until the end of the national lockdown on 2 December, and that some armed forces personnel remain with us after that time to ensure that a smaller number of mass testing centres can remain open to enable us to keep on top of the virus?
I echo the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) in thanking our reserve forces and paying tribute to them for everything they are doing to assist the Government in this very difficult time. Reservists are ready to go anywhere at a moment’s notice, but will the Minister ensure that when they are mobilised for this deployment, consideration is given to the fact that they need to tidy up their affairs in respect of their jobs and family commitments?
Today is Councils Can Day, so I am sure the Minister would like to join me in thanking local councils for everything they are doing to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. On that note, will the Minister tell me what conversations he has had with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government about the support that the armed forces will be giving in our council areas, particularly to ensure that that support is co-ordinated and targeted where it is needed?
Oh dear: I am worried that you say I am looking orange, Mr Speaker —it makes me think of Donald Trump.
I understand that my hon. Friend the Minister wants to be cautious about the vaccine, but the Department of Health and Social Care has acquired the rights to 350 million doses of six different vaccines. As we heard yesterday, one of those vaccines, from Pfizer, needs to be transported at temperatures under -70° C, although others do not. Whatever happens, it is a huge logistics problem. Now is not the time to be shy: the armed forces are very good at logistics and I strongly suggest that now is the time that my hon. Friend should be suggesting to the Government—and not waiting for the Government or other Departments to say to him—that the armed forces are ready to help in the logistics of the distribution of these vaccines and maybe even in inoculations.
The excellence of our armed forces in civil contingency operations, whether in support, service or strategic planning, is noted by us all.
In York, we have the medical services training centre. How is that being deployed at this time to make sure that our NHS is not overwhelmed this winter? How are we planning to ensure that the support is there when it is needed?
This week in particular, we all remember with gratitude the price that so many service personnel have paid in time of war. I also associate myself with the thanks expressed by other Members for the work that the armed forces have been doing just now to protect us in the face of such a huge peacetime threat. The armed forces draw their personnel from every community of the United Kingdom, and every citizen in every part of the United Kingdom contributes to the cost through their taxes. Will the Minister tell us what measures are in place to make sure that the deployment of the armed forces just now is based on an assessment of where they can be most effective and where their efforts are most needed?
May I put on record my thanks to the City Mayor’s Office, to our director of public health, Matt Ashton, and his staff and to the skilled and expert men and women of the armed forces? This is the first mass testing pilot of its kind—a massive logistical effort in which the military are supporting the people of Liverpool. We warmly welcome our service personnel and, rather than have the likes of Serco plundering public money while failing the public, may I encourage the Minister and say that we want a response to covid-19 that is publicly led by the NHS, by public health professionals and by local authorities, and backed up by the logistical expertise of our armed forces where necessary?
Anyone who watched the briefing last night with Brigadier Joe Fossey could not help but be impressed by the professionalism of the brigadier and his team in Liverpool. What extra capacity remains within the armed forces to help other council areas, particularly in the north of England with my Kirklees Council area—450 cases plus per 100,0000 at the moment—not only to help with the mass testing, but to support localised track and trace effectiveness?
Hull now has the third highest seven-day rate of new cases per 100,000 residents across English upper-tier local authorities. Test and trace remains a key part of fighting this virus. I am incredibly impressed to hear of the pilot that has happened in Liverpool, so does the Minister have plans to deploy armed forces in Hull and East Riding to help them scale-up test and trace?
When the major generals removed liberties, Oliver Cromwell wondered publicly if even arming one in 10 would be sufficient to enforce it. Will the Minister assure me that the armed forces will not be used to enforce any coronavirus regulations?
May I also express the thanks of my constituents for the work that the armed forces have been doing in response to the coronavirus pandemic? The Minister has already revealed to the House that military assistance to civil authorities’ requests has quadrupled this year, for understandable reasons. As we approach the end of the year, with the potential for a vaccine to be deployed and, it has to be said, some of the pressures that will be placed on the country as a result of Brexit, is he confident that all future MACA requests will be able to be met because he has the appropriate capacity?
Following on from that question, there is no point in repeating what has been said many times this afternoon that the armed forces act with superb professionalism, but the moment this crisis is over, we can be assured, judging by history, that the bean counters in the Treasury will be putting pressure on the MOD for further cuts. We saw it after the end of the cold war and the Afghanistan war, and it will carry on. Will the Minister give me an assurance today that both he and the Secretary of State will vigorously resist, with the help of No. 10, any further cuts in our armed forces?
I thank the Minister for his responses and put on the record my thanks to the Army and its personnel for what they do across my constituency and elsewhere. The British Army and Territorial Army detachments in Northern Ireland are drawn from both sides of the community—both Roman Catholic and Protestant, and nationalist and Unionist; they both serve in the same uniform. Will there be an opportunity for the British Army to assist, if it is called upon by the Northern Ireland Assembly? Can the Minister also assure the House that no soldier will be asked to go anywhere without the appropriate PPE and training to deal with people in these very difficult and different days?
I should declare an interest as a proud patron of the Military Preparation College, which has an Eastbourne campus. I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that there has been a significant increase in applications to the college, so inspired are young people by what they have seen of military service in our town—not least in May, when military personnel set up a temporary mobile site that enabled rapid testing of essential workers so that our hospice, our hospital and our care homes were all able to continue. Will he join me in thanking military personnel who have served in Sussex?
May I put on the record my gratitude for the work that the armed forces are doing in combating this global pandemic? It does seem that there are other countries that may be better organised in emergency management, so what lessons have been learned by the UK Government from how other countries have been handling the crisis?
May I put on record the fact that this response to the pandemic has demonstrated the United Kingdom at its best? My local regiment, 1st Battalion the Rifles, helped the Welsh ambulance service with testing and the Royal Welsh helped in Gloucester with the testing facility there, which I had the opportunity to visit. May I just probe the Minister a little further on the question the shadow Secretary of State and other Members asked about the vaccine situation? I think the Minister said that the MOD stood ready to help. May I ask if he has had any requests from civilian authorities to assist with vaccine roll-out and, if so, what those plans are?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to catch your eye.
I hope the message is loud and clear that the Minister hears today: we are absolutely proud of what our armed forces do, but, given their vast experience in emergency planning, crisis management and, indeed, strategic thinking, they are a vastly underused asset in the biggest crisis we have seen since the second world war. With what we face today, we have logistical challenges, command-and-control challenges, communications challenges and operational challenges. These are all things the armed forces can do, yet there is not a place for them at the quad, the top decision-making body dealing with this pandemic. Does my hon. Friend not think that is incorrect?
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the chief executive of Meighs & Westleys at its site in Newcastle under Lyme, where it manufactures high-integrity castings for the UK naval supply chain. It is already exporting 5% directly to the United States and another 5% through intermediaries. Will my hon. Friend praise the company for its export success so far, and will he work with the Secretary of State for International Trade to encourage further export success in the future?
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I accept that NDAs are important in terms of financial contractual obligations, but is the Minister aware that his Department is asking industry, at pre-bid stage, to sign NDAs that actually exclude those companies from being able to speak to MPs or Ministers? I understand that some US primes such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin are refusing to sign them—quite rightly—so why is the Department now getting companies to sign these NDAs for contracts such as Skynet?
Airbus and Tata Steel in Neath Port Talbot are strategically important to the Welsh economy. Is the Minister ensuring that procurement is brought forward in terms of buying aircraft and building ships to help British steel and Airbus? Boeing, for example, has a lot of orders in America that supports it as a primary competitor, and we see such support in Europe as well. What is the Minister doing for Airbus and Tata Steel?
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Now that we have left the EU, what assessment and representations is my right hon. Friend making about inter-operational ability in procurement done by EU members through the permanent structured co-operation, PESCO? 
Following the death of Captain Dean Sprouting caused by American soldiers on 31 January 2018 while on deployment in Iraq, his widow Linda and their two sons, Oliver and Harry, have been seeking justice on Dean’s behalf. How can it be right for the British Government to allow those who killed Dean to investigate themselves by themselves, and to decide for themselves only to then defend themselves? Particularly at this time of year we are reminded and mindful of Dean’s futile loss of life. Is the Secretary of State willing to challenge the US over this concealment of injustice? 
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What assessment has the Secretary of State made regarding recent revelations by Bellingcat that Russia continues to develop covert chemical weapons and targeted, more advanced delivery mechanisms in an enormous violation of the chemical weapons convention? What does that tell us about the threat we face, and what is he doing to keep us safe? 
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With almost 400,000 acres in England, the Ministry of Defence is one of the biggest landowners in this country. What is it doing to ensure that it is environmentally sustainable and helping the Government to meet their target to plant many more trees? 
Hyndburn and Haslingden is famous for the Accrington Pals and has a proud record when it comes to representing this country. We also have great people such as the team at Veterans in Communities, who I recently had the pleasure of meeting in Haslingden. Will my right hon. Friend agree to look at whether a recruitment office can be opened in my constituency, so that our armed forces can attract more of Lancashire’s finest? 
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The changing of contracts at HM Naval Base Clyde, as part of the future maritime support programme, is an exercise in outsourcing. It will lead to job cuts and weaker terms and conditions and create an unnecessary operational risk to our UK defence capabilities. Why is the Secretary of State doing this?
I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) for securing this important debate and for that absolutely excellent speech. I agree with every word of it. I also want to pay tribute to the Minister, who, since this sad story came to his attention—rather too late, I fear—has engaged with me and other Members from across the House in a really tremendous and constructive way. I pay tribute to the efforts he is making on behalf of our constituents.
I invite the House to consider the plight of these constituents of ours, including more than 100 families across Wiltshire, some of whom I represent. In this terrible crisis that the whole country is in, they are worrying about their children’s education, worrying about their own jobs and employment prospects and worrying about their elderly parents, and suddenly they are being told that they also have to worry about their own homes. The threat of having to leave immediately was hanging over them, as a very short notice period given. I pay tribute to the Minister for his efforts to extend that notice period, but I am afraid that even 12 months is too short. As my right hon. Friend says, we have to do better than that.
There are really only two possible satisfactory solutions for these families. One is that Annington agrees to take back the homes with the tenants in place and to give them some security of tenure, so that it cannot just evict them a couple of weeks after receiving them back. The other is that the Government work with Annington and with local authorities to ensure that the houses can be passed over to local councils or to their subsidiaries. In Wiltshire, we have an excellent company called Stone Circle, which is a subsidiary of the local authority and which would be very glad to take possession—take ownership—of those houses, but this requires Annington to co-operate. As my right hon. Friend says, it should be able to do that. It secured the houses 25 years ago or so for less than £2 billion. They are now worth over £7 billion. It has had a very good ride thanks to the taxpayer, and it should now be enjoined to do everything it can.
I end by echoing my right hon. Friend’s point: please would the Minister, with the undoubted good will that he has for these families, convene and host a proper, open and transparent conversation with all the interested parties, including Annington, Members of the House and our local authorities, about which assets are actually under threat—because it is not just the families that we currently know about; there are probably more—and work with all those parties to devise a plan that ensures that these families can remain in their homes?
Has my hon. Friend looked at the way these houses are being marketed through Orchard & Shipman? Is it being straight with these families about the terms on which they are taking on these properties? Many of the residents in my constituency tell me that they were under the impression that this would be secure and that they could look forward to many years of living in these properties.
In my constituency, as my hon. Friend knows, there are some 60 such houses in Wittering. Certainly some of those householders were told that this would be medium to long-term, and some of them have only recently moved in—literally a few weeks ago.
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Thank you for your forbearance, Mr Twigg.
Let me begin my short contribution by congratulating the hon. Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) on so accurately and passionately presenting the case for RAF Valley. My particular interest in and concern with RAF Valley stem from the fact that last year I completed the armed forces parliamentary scheme and I was seconded to the RAF. Having completed the scheme and graduated, I am left with huge admiration for the RAF and the tremendous service that it provides to this country. As part of the scheme I visited RAF Valley, and as the hon. Member has suggested, I was struck by the tremendous commitment of the entire workforce there, but also by the huge contribution that RAF Valley makes to the wellbeing of the local economy. It is absolutely central to the future of Anglesey as a community. I was enormously impressed that there is a special focus, as we have heard, on pilot training. It is the centre for pilot training for the RAF and, to some extent, the Navy in the United Kingdom.
However, I have a concern, too. The concern is that 180 jobs could be cut from the essential Hawk contract at RAF Valley by 2033. The fear among the workforce stems from the contract negotiations, which I understand are taking place, between BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence for the T1 and T2 Hawk aircraft. For the T1 Hawk there is an active proposal, I understand, to move all the T1 depth maintenance to RAF Leeming by 2023. That move alone could accelerate the loss of between 50 and 70 jobs at Valley. It has been suggested by people who work there that that proposal makes no sense, either financially or from an operational perspective. I would like the Minister to comment specifically on that.
Unite, the trade union, suggests that the move is not only ill thought out. There has been a suggestion—no more than a suggestion—that perhaps the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had some influence on the decision making that is taking place, because Leeming is part of his constituency, of course.
There is also concern that a further 100 jobs could be lost by 2033. That relates to the T2 Hawk. Therefore there could be, in total, a loss of 180 jobs. Of course, because the base is so central to the wellbeing of the island and the local economy, that would be a huge body blow to Anglesey. We know full well that the island has suffered a number of very difficult economic and job losses over the last few years, and this would be a further and significant body blow to the island. Therefore, like the hon. Member for Ynys Môn, I am looking for reassurance and clarification from the Minister on the points that we have mentioned.
Many of my constituents in West Dorset work for Leonardo Helicopters in Yeovil, where redundancies have recently been announced. That is of great concern to me, my constituents and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr Fysh). What is the Minister doing to support the company?
Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State to step up to the plate and match the commitment made by the shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), to procure “built in Britain”, hence ensuring that there are no redundancies in West Dorset, and to support the awarding of the £1.5 billion fleet solid support vessels contract to a British consortium, to recruit and retain 2,500 UK jobs, and to do so for the many other shovel-ready defence projects, to support British industry, British workers and the British economy to lead us through this covid recession?
What steps his Department is taking to ensure that armed forces capability is adequate to tackle future security threats. 
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As you are well aware, Mr Speaker, BAE Systems plays an integral role in the economy of Lancashire. May I ask the Secretary of State to continue to push for an integrated approach to acquisition in the air sector so that the groundbreaking work on Tempest, which is vital for the UK to retain its sovereign freedom of action, is at the core of future plans for our outstanding Royal Air Force? 
The Ministry of Defence has a live firing range near Cape Wrath in the north-west of my constituency. Running through the firing range is a road, which, when the military is not using the range, is popular with visitors and locals alike, particularly because Cape Wrath lighthouse, at the top left-hand corner of our country, is one of the great destinations of the United Kingdom. The road is in bad nick. Would the Ministry of Defence be willing to put its hand in its pocket to help get the road done up? 
Potholes are on the minds of my constituents, but they are not what I have in mind when I ask this question. Will my right hon. Friend give an update on the support that his Department has provided to the civil authorities in London in dealing with the covid outbreak? 
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Earlier this year, I met councillors and residents in Kirton Lindsey who want to repurpose Vincent hall as a community gym. The Department has been incredibly helpful so far. Will it continue to work with me to bring forward that excellent plan? 
May I press the Secretary of State further on the Fleet Solid Support ships? Back in July in reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), he said that“such ships are not highly complex, so once the competition happens and it is placed, I do not think it will take long to build them…British shipbuilding and British yards produce some of the best ships in the world and we should support them as best as we can and ensure our navy gets some great British-made kit.”—[Official Report, 6 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 660.]As EU regulations are no longer the excuse—if they ever really were the reason—why will the Secretary of State not commit today not only to build those ships in British yards, but to get a move on? 
Cook Defence Systems in Stanhope in my constituency makes the tracks for all the Army’s fighting vehicles and increasingly for fighting vehicles overseas. Will the Minister join me on a visit to Cook Defence Systems to see what export opportunities could be achieved in addition to its work with the British Army?
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Covid is certainly just one of many emerging threats that we have faced and will yet face as a nation, including other possible pandemics and unconventional warfare such as cyber-attacks. Can the Minister assure me that, in order ensure that we can continue to rise to whatever challenges the future may yet hold, Defence Science and Technology will have the investment and support that it needs to remain the envy of the world?
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In the worst weather, Walney Island in my constituency of Barrow and Furness splits in two, which risks homes, jobs and our fantastic nature reserve. I know the MOD perhaps does not put nature reserves at the top of its pile of things to care about, but there is another threat—it risks sifting the channel that BAE uses to push subs out into the sea. I am raising this issue across Government: can I ask the MOD’s view on it? 
If the range and capability of our battle tanks and armoured vehicles are inferior to that of our potential adversaries, it is difficult for our world-class armed forces to continue to operate in that sphere. Will the Minister assure the House that the Challenger 2 and Warrior programmes will be brought forward at the earliest possible opportunity, to ensure that our world-class troops have world-class equipment?
The recent National Audit Office report on the Government’s defence equipment plan showed that there is a potential funding shortfall of £13 billion, which will no doubt affect Army equipment as well as Navy and RAF equipment. Given that this is now the third time that the NAO has deemed the plan unaffordable, when will the Minister get to grips with this funding crisis?
I thank the Minister for his answer, but we know that the Army has cancelled various anti-armour projects and reduced the number of tanks it will upgrade. There have also been recent reports suggesting that the Army is to face further cuts in the integrated review. Can the Minister guarantee that the review will not be yet another cost-cutting exercise, leaving our armed forces short of the equipment that we need to defend the country?
May I ask Ministers to extend the gratitude of the Defence Committee for our visit to Army HQ in Andover on Thursday? It was an illuminating visit, and the issue of Warrior and Challenger—now two decades old—came up. The Minister mentioned the integrated review. Given what we learned and the fantastic efforts that are being made to support the nation in tackling the coronavirus, may I invite the Secretary of State and the Minister to delay the integrated review until the new year, to ensure that we do it properly, rather than rush it when the focus is elsewhere at the moment?
I thank the Minister of State for his recent visit to Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land at BAE Systems in my constituency, following the award of part of the Boxer contract to that consortium. On the issue of Challenger 2 and the life extension project, does the Minister of State think that Shropshire defence manufacturing will feature in his decision making, and will the decision-making maingate still be this autumn?
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There is no doubt that space will play an increasingly important role in defence. In Cornwall, we are excited about that opportunity, because we will soon be launching satellites from Spaceport Cornwall. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the space domain will fully be a part of the integrated review?
Over the past decade, £430 million has been spent on the Army’s Warrior programme upgrade. Despite that, it is still only at the demonstration phase. Can the Minister indicate when a contract will be let? And will that contract be let only when the battlefield assessment phase is complete?
Ciaran Martin, head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, confirmed recently that Russian hackers attacked British media, telecoms and energy companies. The Royal United Services Institute has confirmed that the UK will not be able to replicate many of the security benefits of EU membership. Will the Minister give the House an assessment of the capacity we are losing by leaving the EU and outline the Government’s costed proposals for how the UK can unilaterally develop that capacity?
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T2. Does the Minister agree that British businesses, such as Martin-Baker aircraft company, based in Denham, are at the heart of our defence industry? Can I tempt him to join me for the opening of our new facility in the coming months? 
This weekend there has been widespread concern about the Government’s communication strategy on the coronavirus pandemic, including a number of anonymous briefings to the media, such as one on the role of the Army. As well as providing more detail about Operation Broadshare, can the Secretary of State explain reports that the Government are working on the assumption that at least 20% of personnel will contract the virus? What arrangements are in place to mitigate any impact that that may have on operations?
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T6. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the impact of Covid-19 on plans to commemorate Victory over Japan Day in August with surviving veterans, and in association with the Royal British Legion and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission? 
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T7. David Brown Santasalo engineering in my constituency has been manufacturing engineering parts for the Ministry of Defence for many years, including propulsion gears for our Dreadnought submarines and our Type 26 frigates. It has shown a real commitment to quality apprenticeships. Will the ministerial team continue to show such commitment to great companies like it in the MOD supply chain? In fact, will the Minister visit David Brown Santasalo, and see at first hand its excellence in engineering? 
If companies such as David Brown are to be sustained, they need orders, as does the shipbuilding industry. Once again I ask whether we can start behaving like every other country. Will the Minister tell us from the Dispatch Box when he will start the fleet solid support vessels programme again, and tell us that these ships will be built in British yards?
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Her Majesty’s armed forces owe a huge debt of gratitude to Commonwealth citizens. On the issue of right to remain, can I ask the Minister what new protocols will be put in place between the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office?
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the future of Cawdor Barracks, Brawdy.
It is a privilege to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Sharma. I am pleased to have secured this short debate on Cawdor barracks at Brawdy in my constituency, home to the 14 Signal Regiment, which specialises in electronic warfare. I want to address the continued uncertainty that hangs over the site, arising from a closure plan that has changed several times in recent years under different Ministers at the Ministry of Defence.
I will start by giving a brief history of the barracks, before emphasising their importance to the armed forces in Wales and to the local community in Preseli, Pembrokeshire. Located on the north-west coast of Pembrokeshire, some six miles from St Davids—the UK’s smallest city—the Cawdor barracks site has a long and active military history, stretching back to the second world war. It was officially opened in February 1944, as RAF Brawdy, and was initially a satellite station supporting the heavy bomber aircraft stationed nearby at RAF St Davids.
Following the end of the war, the base was handed over to the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy, becoming a royal naval air station that was renamed RNAS Brawdy. From 1963 to 1971, the Brawdy site was home to Fairey Gannet anti-submarine aircraft and to Hawker Hunter fighter jets, demonstrating the base’s importance during the cold war. The Royal Navy left Brawdy in 1971 and the base was allocated to the then Department of the Environment. Three years later the strategic importance of the site was once again brought to the fore when the RAF returned to the base for a second time and D Flight of 22 Squadron took up residence with its Westland Whirlwind search and rescue helicopters.
In 1974 the 229 operational conversion unit, with its Hawker Hunters, relocated to Brawdy from RAF Chivenor in Devon, which was earmarked for closure. In that year the United States and the UK agreed to the construction of a SOSUS sound surveillance system alongside the RAF base at Brawdy, called a naval facilities engineering command. This US naval facility was to prove to be an essential and critical part of the site at Brawdy in the years ahead. Due to Brawdy’s proximity to the sea, it was an ideal location to house a station that monitored a growing number of underwater microphones designed to pinpoint Soviet submarines as they moved out of their waters and into the Atlantic, again underlining the base’s importance during the cold war.
A US military footprint would remain at the base for the next 20 years and, as with the RAF personnel based there, the Americans became a close-knit part of our community in Pembrokeshire during that time. I myself remember that at school, in the early-1980s, the American children in our classrooms were the first people from outside Britain that many of us had come across. The end of the cold war brought large-scale changes to the size and configuration of the armed forces, and that affected Brawdy, along with many other sites. The naval facilities engineering command facility was deactivated in 1995 and the Americans soon left.
Flying from Brawdy ceased in 1992, as part of the rationalisation of advanced and tactical weapons training, but it was a further two years until the remaining small number of RAF personnel and their Westland Sea King helicopters also left the site. In economic terms, the loss of the large number of RAF and US naval personnel and their families at that time had a significant negative impact on the Pembrokeshire economy. I will return to the economic value of the base later, but it is important for the Minister and others to understand the historical context of the decisions that are currently being taken about the future use of the site.
In 1995 the Brawdy site was transferred from the RAF to the British Army, under the name Cawdor barracks, and became a base for the 14th Signal Regiment, which had hitherto been located at various sites across Germany. At the time it was widely understood that the base was intended to be something of a temporary arrangement, with no certainty that it would become a permanent home. People closely involved in the transfer of the regiment to Cawdor barracks would later tell me that it was evident from the outset that the base was less than ideal, despite many positive aspects. The infrastructure on the site had lots of potential but required significant investment.
The main issue that has been raised with me time and again is the location, specifically the sheer distance of Brawdy from the Royal Corps of Signals HQ at Blandford in Dorset, or from the various UK regions from which the officers and soldiers of the regiment are primarily drawn. However, the temporary arrangement has now lasted a quarter of a century. The regiment is no longer seen as a somewhat mysterious outfit, dropped into Brawdy as a stopgap; it has become a deeply embedded and respected part of the local community in Pembrokeshire.
At this point it is worth saying what the 14th Signal Regiment does. It is the Army’s cyber and electronic warfare regiment. It has a unique role in providing a robust and sustainable electronic warfare capability to support deployed armed forces, facilitating operations in the electronic battle space. It is the only regiment in the British Army with these capabilities, and it bridges the gap between strategic cyber operations and tactical electronic warfare.
The soldiers based at Brawdy are at the cutting edge of electronic warfare, an increasingly important aspect of 21st century combat. Because of their unique set of capabilities, they have been used extensively on operations over the past 20 years, including those in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other locations wh