Jeremy Quin debates with Ministry of Defence

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)

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 weeks, 2 days ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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What steps he is taking to improve cost controls within the defence equipment programme. (911641)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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We are implementing changes through the acquisition transformation scheme to improve cost controls. Through the outline strategic case, we are ensuring that the right expertise is brought together at the outset, so that projects are properly risk assessed and, with the right commercial expertise available, set up for success.

Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Dhesi
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The hon. Gentleman’s point is very wise and we would endorse it. We need to invest in the right capabilities to meet the threats of the future. it is good to hear someone on the Labour Benches speaking sense. We agree that that is exactly where our funds should be directed—to meet the threats of the future. That is being undertaken through the integrated review, which is a cross-Government review. More information will be coming out in due course, but we are very focused on it.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The hon. Gentleman needs to look to the outcome of the integrated review that will take place in due course, which will set out the overarching strategic priorities for the Government in meeting the needs of this country across a broad spectrum of foreign affairs and defence. It is from that strategic set of decisions that we need then to ensure that our procurement follows.

Mark Pawsey Portrait Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to ensure that British industry can supply the defence equipment needed to meet future threats. (911599)

Break in Debate

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)
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What steps he has taken to help ensure that defence procurement contributes towards the UK meeting its net zero carbon emissions target. (911603)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Sustainability is considered at all the appropriate stages of the acquisition lifecycle, from setting requirements to disposal. In addition, we are improving sustainability in the defence estate, which offers a significant opportunity for the future.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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We are focused on the Government’s world-leading commitment to net zero 2050, and defence will, without doubt, play its part. A lot of work is ongoing regarding how we can increase our activity in that sphere, but we have discussions with commercial entities and throughout the MOD about how we can tackle carbon emissions throughout the armed forces. That includes, recently, clearing MOD planes to use up to 50% sustainable aviation fuel. That is a good step in the right direction, and others will undoubtedly follow.

John Baron Portrait Mr John Baron (Basildon and Billericay) (Con)
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What plans he has for the contribution of soft power to the UK’s international defence engagement. (911605)

Break in Debate

Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson (Wolverhampton North East) (Con)
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What recent procurement decisions his Department has taken. (911617)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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I am pleased to report that throughout the covid pandemic, Defence has continued to maintain a steady drumbeat of orders. Those include recent orders to enhance F-35, a project that particularly benefits the north-west of England, and the next generation munitions solution, which saves £563 million over the course of its contract and supports jobs in Glascoed, Tyne and Wear, and Stoke-on-Trent.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend has already discussed the brilliance of her small and medium-sized enterprises with me in the past, and I expect I will be hearing a lot more about them in the future. The good news is that with our SME action plan in place, which I would encourage them to look through, SMEs are now accounting for nearly 20% of all defence procurement expenditure. With a £24 billion investment in defence to come forth, there is plenty for them to go at.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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It was a great pleasure for me and the Secretary of State to join my hon. Friend in visiting David Brown last year to discuss its vital work on Type 26 frigates not only for us, but our allies. Investment in UK armour, as I think my hon. Friend knows, is ongoing with the Boxer programme and Ajax. Other projects are also under active consideration.

Jane Stevenson Portrait Jane Stevenson [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I understand my hon. Friend’s question. Throughout the pandemic, we have made certain to maintain the drumbeat of existing orders so that they have continued. Through the interim payments scheme, we have helped to support defence companies with cash where that has been required. It is right that core defence decisions are taken on an holistic basis in the context of the integrated review. However, we have, where possible, advanced procurement in particular on improvements to the defence estate, where tens of millions of pounds of improvements are ongoing as we speak.

Andrew Percy Portrait Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con)
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If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (911654)

Break in Debate

Richard Fuller Portrait Richard Fuller (North East Bedfordshire) (Con) [V]
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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)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The Warrior CSP is now at an advanced stage in its demonstration phase. It has been ongoing for a period—it is now 75% through—but all projects are subject to the integrated review. I know that my hon. Friend would not expect me to comment on any particular project at this stage, but I will say that it is one of a huge number of contributions that Bedfordshire makes to defence, including across Ajax, Wildcat and Tempest. It is a county that has got a great investment in and support for our services.

Lyn Brown Portrait Ms Lyn Brown (West Ham) (Lab) [V]
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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)

Break in Debate

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab) [V]
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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)

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am not aware of the details of that case, and it would be unwise to comment without learning more, but I will look into it and write to the hon. Lady.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Meon Valley) (Con) [V]
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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)

Defence Manufacturing and Procurement: Shropshire

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 16th December 2020

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) for calling this debate. He is an assiduous constituency MP. He is one of those people, to whom he referred, who will always advocate the cause of their constituency, but he is also one of my hon. Friends who serves on the Intelligence and Security Committee. He had a previous role with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and therefore knows the threats that we face, and the capabilities we need to meet those threats and deter them, both now and into the future.

It is a huge boon to my hon. Friend that he knows about the threats and capabilities, and that so many deterrents to them can be produced in the heart of Shropshire and in his constituency in particular, which combines great companies with tremendous skills, and an enthusiasm for embracing and supporting our armed forces in all their endeavours.

My hon. Friend referred to Boxer vehicles and the capabilities that they produce, which are just one good example. We look forward to bringing them into our armoury and helping to export them around the world. He touched on that, and we recognise it as a way we can help to drive forward the success of our sector in the future. We are currently the second biggest defence exporter in the world. We need to maintain that position to help ensure that we maintain research and development in our country, so that we continue to get the capabilities we need and to enhance those capabilities for the future.

My hon. Friend referred to the ventilator challenge and the work performed in his constituency. I recognise the fantastic achievements of the whole of the defence supply chain in supporting our great NHS throughout the pandemic. I highlight the work of everyone at the Defence Fulfilment Centre at Donnington in his constituency. I know that he knows it well. It has been the nerve centre and at the forefront of the logistics effort to provide vital equipment in support of the Department of Health and Social Care, including the supply of ventilators, to which he referred, and other critical medical equipment to the frontline.

The figures are astounding. Over the past seven months to November, more than 3.8 million items were handled by the defence supply chain, with the vast majority passing through Donnington. That includes over 20,000 ventilators, 70,000 pieces of equipment and over 3.7 million consumables. Those vital items have been moved and delivered across the length and breadth of the British Isles, from Belfast to Great Yarmouth, from Guernsey to NHS National Services Scotland. This has been a truly great endeavour in the face of adversity. I commend those people in defence across Shropshire, the west midlands and beyond who have risen to that vital challenge.

Donnington is just one of the valuable contributions Shropshire makes to defence. In addition to providing a central role in our pandemic response, the team at Donnington has continued, as has the rest of the defence team, to do the day job, processing 1.5 million requests, 135,000 trade receipts and 110,000 customer returns in the last 12 months for millions of items in support of our armed forces worldwide—a truly exceptional performance.

My hon. Friend referred to the broader footprint. The Royal Air Force has a significant footprint through its stations and operations at RAF Shawbury and RAF Cosford. That includes training around 200 personnel a year in basic and advanced rotary wing flying as part of the UK Military Flying Training System at Shawbury and the provision of world-class aeronautical engineering training to RAF and international students at RAF Cosford.

The school offers an extensive range of advanced apprenticeships spanning mechanical, avionics, weapons and survival equipment disciplines, from which around 2,000 aircraft engineers graduate each year. This investment in our people not only benefits defence, but sustains jobs and supports the local and wider regional economies. This is a classic example of how defence—in this case through its training school in Shropshire—provides vital skills to support our research and industrial base of the future.

More broadly, in 2018-19 we spent some £583 million in the west midlands, sustaining around 4,300 jobs, and Shropshire plays a vital role. In addition to the good work being undertaken by Kuehne+Nagel and Team Leidos at Donnington, Babcock Defence Support Group provides vital maintenance, overhaul and engineering support for our Warrior infantry fighting vehicles and other military vehicles at the Donnington site.

I would also highlight, as did my hon. Friend, the work being undertaken by Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land—RBSL—at Telford in support of the Challenger 2 life extension programme and congratulate it on the recent award of a contract of £860 million to manufacture more than 260 Boxer vehicles at its Telford facility, as part of the £2.3 billion mechanised infantry vehicle programme, to deliver a state-of-the-art capability to equip the Army’s strike brigades. It is also under contract to modernise and support the British Army’s chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear reconnaissance vehicles.

My first industrial engagement as Minister for Defence Procurement was a pre-lockdown visit to RBSL in March this year. I was very impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the workforce in delivering for defence. I was especially delighted to meet RBSL apprentices, who showed real enthusiasm for their work in supporting our defence programmes. It is vital that we continue to seek to empower future generations through science, technology, engineering and mathematics to grow a dynamic, innovative economy.

Our investment in the UK defence industry is allowing us to do just that. Within RBSL, in addition to the excellent work of the STEM ambassador scheme, the Boxer vehicle sub-contract award will allow the company to provide work and training opportunities to more than 60 apprentices over the next five years, and may also provide further opportunities throughout the supply chain. RBSL’s £20 million investment in its Telford site will not only provide state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, but support the company’s apprenticeship schemes by delivering a high standard of training, enabling apprentices to benefit from work-based learning and paths to formal qualifications. Those schemes and other similar initiatives will help to grow and sustain engineering and manufacturing skills in Shropshire and across the UK, ensuring that we can deliver for defence now and in the future.

My hon. Friend referred to other companies, which are there in legion, be it Caterpillar or GKN, supporting us directly or through the wider supply chain doing vital work such as that on the F-35, for which we are the only tier 1 partner of our American allies. I also recognise the work of small and medium-sized enterprises, who play a vital role in the UK defence industrial base. We want to harness their ingenuity and niche capabilities in providing and supporting battle-winning capabilities for our armed forces.

In 2019, we published an SME action plan and, to support that commitment, appointed SME champions at senior level within our 19 strategic suppliers. We are targeting 25% of our procurement spend to be with SMEs by 2022. We are making progress. SMEs accounted for over 19% of the MOD’s procurement spend in 2018-19, representing some £3.9 billion, which was a significant increase on the previous year and the third year in a row in which the proportion of funds going to SMEs rose.

SMEs working in Shropshire provide valuable support to a varied range of defence activities. Air Covers Ltd is manufacturing and supplying canopy covers for the Typhoon combat aircraft fleet and Skylaunch Ltd is providing glider winches for our air cadets, among many others. Alongside our support to SMEs, we continue our internal programmes of transformation and reform, allowing us to work better with the defence industry to deliver what defence needs now and in the future. That includes leading the cross-Government review of the UK’s defence and security sectors, continued investment to manage and enhance the resilience of our supply chains, and improving the pace and agility of our acquisition processes. We are also taking the opportunity offered by our departure from the EU to develop defence and security procurement regulations tailored to better meet the UK’s needs.

We can be positive about the future, underpinned by the huge boost to defence recently announced by the Prime Minister. The four-year settlement to which my hon. Friend made reference amounts to an extra £24 billion —including at least £6.6 billion for R&D—and provides us with the opportunity to modernise and compete effectively in the digitised battlefield and, above all, deter. As one of the biggest defence spenders in the world, our investment already injects over £19 billion into our industry every year right the way across the United Kingdom, securing thousands of jobs and growing opportunities across the whole nation. The settlement will allow us to build on that and provide new opportunities across the supply chain, helping the country to build back better from the pandemic by supporting UK skills, jobs and industry.

It came as no surprise that, on the back of the Prime Minister’s excellent announcement of a multi-year spending review, my hon. Friend inquired about specific procurement exercises that I know from his previous questions are at the front of his mind and are of interest more broadly in Shropshire. On his ask for an early Christmas present, I am afraid it will come as a disappointment—but probably no surprise—that I cannot be drawn on those specific issues at this time. However, I am aware of both the capability enhancements and prosperity benefits elucidated. I am grateful to him for giving us yet another opportunity to raise them in the House, and I look forward to being able to say more in due course.

Defence is part of the fabric of the UK. Through our defence industries both big and small, the UK supports our armed forces with the equipment they need to get the job done, provide our security and keep us safe. I am convinced that the Government’s funding commitment to defence will secure the long-term future of our defence industry both in Shropshire and across all the regions and all four nations of the UK.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 7th December 2020

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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What steps he is taking to increase the take-up of UK-produced steel in defence procurement. (909780)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The Government publish their future pipeline for steel requirements, together with information on compliance, with steel procurement guidelines. These measures enable UK steel manufacturers to plan better and bid for Government contracts.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am sorry to hear that. We are very keen to engage fully with the steel industry; it is important that we do so. We need transparency, and that is absolutely a goal, as is reinforced by the Cabinet Office guidelines. Looking at the macro picture, however, I am sure that the hon. Lady would agree that the plans we put in place for the biggest single boost to defence expenditure in 30 years, with the commitments to Type 26, Type 31 and the fleet solid support programme, all suggest that there are going to be good opportunities for steel manufacturers in the future.

David Amess Portrait Sir David Amess (Southend West) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to ensure that his Department’s spending supports (a) high-skilled jobs and (b) the wider UK economy. (909781)

Break in Debate

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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When he plans to issue the invitation to tender for contracts relating to the fleet solid support ships. (909788)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - -

It is a pleasure to hear from the right hon. Gentleman. No one could ever accuse him of being inconsistent on this subject. I am pleased to assure him, as I have previously, that we will be commencing the competition in the spring.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think we will leave it to the Minister to answer.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I am most grateful, Mr Speaker, though the Secretary of State is raring to go.

Just to reassure the right hon. Gentleman, the specification has changed. It has changed because we now understand more about the carrier strike group and how we will deploy these important assets. It is on track, and we will get there. We have had two rounds of market engagement, and we may wish to do more market engagement. We have got a busy shipbuilding supply chain; there are a lot of orders going through. It is important that this is well based and well founded, and I want to make certain that we launch this competition successfully and, indeed, that it is concluded successfully.

Khalid Mahmood Portrait Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I suspect that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the CSEU report on shovel-ready projects, which I commend. It is always good to have advice from those quarters, and indeed, many of them are already ongoing. I gently remind him, however, that the report praised the German Government for increasing spending by €10 billion to €12 billion over the next few years. It also praised the French—I think the French Minister has been asked to go before the Assemblée Nationale with an extra €1.5 billion, or around that number. That does not bear any comparison with our £24 billion investment in defence over the next few years. That is the biggest single boost to defence over the past 30 years, and it will mean a lot of orders coming through, to the benefit of British defence, the British armed forces, and British firms across the Union.

Owen Thompson Portrait Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP)
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What discussions he plans to have with the Chancellor of the Exchequer prior to the conclusion of the integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. (909789)

Break in Debate

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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What recent progress his Department has made on the Challenger 2 life extension programme. (909792)

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The assessment phase of the Challenger 2 life extension programme has concluded. The proposition is now being worked up prior to a decision being taken on the investment case.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I would not comment on any particular forthcoming potential procurement, but I have visited Telford to see RBSL and I can absolutely endorse my hon. Friend’s remarks about the brilliant engineers and apprentices I have met there. He is rightly proud of the capabilities in defence throughout Shropshire, and I was delighted with the £860 million contract to support Boxer. It is a brilliant supply chain in Shropshire and throughout the UK.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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What recent estimate he has made of the proportion of his Department’s overseas activity which is accounted for as aid. (909793)

Defence Procurement and Supply Chains

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (in the Chair)
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Due to a rash of good behaviour, the Minister has acres of time in which to expand an argument and answer questions. However, would he please leave Mr Whitley two minutes at the end to wind up in his own way?

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - -

I welcome this important debate, and congratulate the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley) on having secured it. This debate is particularly timely, as several hon. Members have reminded us, as it comes in the wake of an extremely positive bit of news. It is wonderful to see the Chamber united, with the hon. Member for Portsmouth South (Stephen Morgan) welcoming last week’s announcement. Even my friends from the Scottish National party have welcomed this investment in the defence of the United Kingdom, and I welcome the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) having done so. It is a £24 billion increase and, as has been suggested, that is a massive boost to the defence of the United Kingdom. It is the largest investment in 30 years—the largest since the end of the cold war—and I am so pleased that it has generated support in this Chamber this afternoon.

This is a timely debate not only because of that announcement, but because it comes at a point when “team defence” has done so much and performed so brilliantly in confronting the coronavirus pandemic. I begin by thanking the defence industry at every level for its positive and collaborative response to this once-in-a-hundred-years event.

At the heart of defence is a critical task of delivering equipment and support to our armed forces to enable them to continue their vital work. We were reminded of that by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) who served himself—it is the kit that our people need to do the job that they are called upon to do. Our partners in industry have risen to that challenge. They have done just that in providing support throughout the pandemic.

To assist them, the Department has actively supported the defence sector through the use of prepayments to maintain business continuity. Some £138 million has been paid on this basis to maintain that flow of cash right through the sector. That has been alongside our drumbeat of orders. I was grateful to hear the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) mention the munitions contract with BAE. I hope that will benefit those employees. It is one of a number of contracts throughout Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom that have continued to be delivered through the course of this pandemic.

Just as we have been monitoring the health of 600 of our suppliers, we make clear to the clients their responsibility to actively engage and support the supply chain. We have engaged directly with ADS, which has been referred to, and with other trade bodies and it has been good to hear of the productive relationships that companies have enjoyed in supporting each other during this period.

As hon. Members have mentioned, the way in which the workforce has been throughout this has been particularly positive. I thank them for how they have adopted and adapted to necessarily different working practices to continue to supply our defence forces, pulling together in a common endeavour to support our forces. How everyone has stepped up to deliver this has been extremely welcome.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame Morris
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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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I recognise the passion with which he addresses the issue of the Rolls-Royce concerns at Barnoldswick and the current action there. I hope that can be brought to a conclusion. I know my colleagues have said much the same. I am not aware of any long-term plans to remove the F-35 components from outside the United Kingdom. I am not aware of them and I hope we can continue and maintain a productive relationship with Rolls-Royce.

We all know what a dreadful situation is confronted by the aerospace industry in general. In practice, in defence, we continue to invest and provide that lifeblood of support to our companies that I hope will enable them to remain and prosper inside the UK. I will come on to the FSS point made by the hon. Gentleman later in my remarks.

The proposer of this debate, the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley), mentioned Cammell Laird, which is in his constituency, and I congratulate the company on its work through the pandemic. It has done sterling work on the Type 45 power improvement programme, and it is great to see HMS Dauntless re-floated with key equipment installed and back on to trials. The company has also been working with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary—currently RFA Wave Knight and RFA Tidesurge. With them, and the work of other companies in the marine sector, Birkenhead continues to provide invaluable contributions to the defence and the UK’s wider prosperity.

More broadly, the north-west has one of the highest per capita defence equipment spends of any region in the country. These figures might upset the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). The spend is £270 per head per year in the north-west, some way behind Scotland and indeed, Wales, but way ahead of Northern Ireland. The hon. Member for Strangford is absolutely right that we need to lift up and level up the economy.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I have the gift of foresight. Only very recently, I was on a call with the First Minister of Northern Ireland with Northern Ireland defence contractors, talking about the opportunities that may come up. I know that the Chief of the Air Staff will be in the Province to talk about opportunities in aerospace, and we are minded to see how we can support all parts of the United Kingdom, absolutely including Northern Ireland.

To go back to the north-west, the Typhoon programme makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, generating billions of pounds through exports. That is an important issue, which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bracknell raised. That will be enhanced not only by the recent radar development, which has secured in excess of 600 jobs, including 120 jobs at BAE Systems Warton in Lancashire, but also by the recently signed Quadriga contract, which secures further skilled manufacturing work to build parts of 38 new aircraft at BAE Systems Samlesbury, including engineering roles that are central to the UK’s future combat air ambitions.

We can be positive about the future for defence across the UK. The four-year settlement provides the financial certainty needed to pursue a radical modernisation programme to meet today’s threats and prepare for the future.

I urge the hon. Member for Portsmouth South to be a little patient. We have the funding envelope and we are looking forward to producing the integrated review and the defence and security industrial strategy. These are three important parts of the stool that will take us forward for the next few years. It is a platform for the future. I recognise the hon. Member’s eagerness to see those things announced. I would ask him to be patient a little longer. He is obviously happy with the first part of the stool—we have the other two legs to produce, and I hope to bring them forward as soon as practical. As he appreciates, these are cross-Government reports. We will bring them forward when we can.

The four-year settlement ensures that the armed forces will be able to adapt to the threat with cutting-edge technology, compete effectively in the information age and fight decisively when required. It will position the UK as a global leader in the new domains of cyber and space and transform the UK’s capabilities across sea, land and air.

As has been stated, it is underpinned by record investment of at least £6.6 billion on military research and development. I hope to encourage the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson), who is keen to see us committing to programmes. The announcement that the Prime Minister made confirmed our order of eight Type 26 and five Type 35 frigates. It also supports a subject close to the heart of a number of people in this Chamber—the future of the fleet solid support ship programme, which will supply our carrier strike group, and which I know is of direct interest to the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar), as it is to the hon. Member for Birkenhead, among many Members. That is an ongoing process, as the right hon. Member for Warley knows; I look forward to his Defence question next week. The competition will be launched next year. I was going to say in the spring, which is but a short step away. We are looking forward to spring dawning.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
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Will the Minister give way?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, as I thought I might have to.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that these are warships, which I know he regards as a great step forward in our thinking, as we have learned more about how they will operate in the carrier strike group. He will just have to be a little more patient. We are getting on with the procurement. Come the spring, he will see that competition launched.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Why the delay? Quite frankly, they could always have been designated as warships, because they always had guns on them. What is holding it up now?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

First of all, we have had a delay in this programme for quite some time—I do not know if it goes quite back as far as the previous Administration, but it might well have done. For a long period, people have been thinking about the FSS and how exactly it should be incorporated. All I can say is that I am delighted that, very soon, the right hon. Gentleman’s pain will be over, with the competition being launched. I am pleased that we have reached that point. It is critical, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree, that the next competition is extremely well founded, well based and successful, and we are putting in place the basis to ensure that that is the case.

I must move on. Another major project of direct importance is the future combat air system, which is a truly strategic endeavour. It will build on the success of Typhoon and F-35 to again promote great jobs in engineering in our high engineering base in the north-west of England and throughout the UK. On land, our exciting £2.8 billion commitments to Boxer at Telford is now feeding through supply chain orders throughout the sector. All these programmes, whether at the cutting edge of maritime combat, air or land capabilities support jobs not only at tier 1, but throughout the supply chain, as has been said, with 119,000 directly employed and a further 80,000 or so employed through the defence supply chain. While decisions on the allocation of funding across the breadth of our capabilities will be made and announced in due course, this settlement will support skills and jobs, and apprenticeships, as mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell), throughout the UK.

In order to ensure a strategic approach, I announced earlier this year that we are leading a cross-Government review of the UK’s defence and security sectors. It will identify how we can ensure that we have competitive, innovative and world-class defence and security industries that drive research and investment. We recently launched the social value in procurement model which, to the hon. Member for Portsmouth South’s point, will provide another tool to ensure our major procurement projects evaluate priority social value themes and outcomes linked to prosperity. As part of the defence prosperity programme, we are working with industry and Government colleagues to develop a joint economic data hub within the UK Defence Solutions Centre to collect and aggregate economic data from across the sector. It will provide a better understanding of the economic contribution of the defence sector at a UK, national and regional level that can inform our decision-making process.

Throughout defence, we are committed to ensuring that we seize the opportunities provided by smaller companies. We are targeting a 25% spend with such companies. We have already hit 19%, up from 13% a couple of years prior to that. We are extremely mindful of the need to maintain a clear vision of our supply chain, and we are working through a Department-wide supply chain resilience and risk programme. Defence has some of the most complex supply chains and challenging procurement programmes across government. However, they contribute to the UK’s proud history of providing the skills, capabilities and equipment that keeps us and our allies safe, and I am convinced that, given the Government’s commitment, the UK will have an equally proud future.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Mr Whitley, can you sum up this excellent debate, please?

Armed Forces: Covid-19 Deployment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
John Healey Portrait John Healey (Wentworth and Dearne) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the deployment of the armed forces to assist civilian authorities in dealing with the continuing covid pandemic.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I thank the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) for his urgent question and for the opportunity to highlight the vital role of the armed forces in responding to the pandemic.

The Secretary of State was pleased to commit to updating colleagues about the latest developments on covid support by placing regular updates in the House of Commons Library, the first of which will be delivered today. I am also pleased that the shadow Secretary of State will be visiting Standing Joint Command later this week to meet in person the senior military leadership delivering the support across the country.

The armed forces are renowned for their planning skills, technical capabilities and ability to provide rapid and effective deployed response. They are being put to good use yet again. At all times they are acting in support of, and at the request of, the civil authorities from every part of the United Kingdom. So far this year the Ministry of Defence has received 420 MACA—military aid to the civil authorities—requests, 341 of which have been covid-related. The armed forces have provided enormous support while themselves taking all appropriate covid precautions and while maintaining our critical defence outputs, ensuring that at all times they are protecting our country, our interests and our friends.

Our present support for the Government’s preparation for the winter period, including the covid-19 response, is one of Defence’s highest priorities. Defence has established a winter support force of approximately 7,500 deployable personnel, in addition to the many defence medics already embedded in the NHS and the support, when called upon, of our defence scientists in the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Defence is currently supporting 41 MACA tasks, including assistance to the whole-town testing pilot in Liverpool and the Birmingham City Council drop and collect scheme. Personnel have previously supported activities from the Nightingale facility construction, vaccine planning, personal protective equipment distribution and the staffing of testing centres. They remain ready to undertake further tasks.

Defence has made thorough preparations to contribute as requested to civil authorities’ responses through the MACA system and will keep the force elements held in readiness to do so under constant review, adjusting the capabilities provided to meet demand. The nation can be reassured, especially in this week of remembrance, that Defence stands ready, as ever, to support whenever, wherever and however required, and will continue to do so, for as long as is necessary.

John Healey Portrait John Healey
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

10 Nov 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I very much welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s warm words of support for the wider tasks of the armed forces. I absolutely assure him and the House that all essential Defence tasks continue to operate, with the great professionalism and resolve of our armed forces, be that the continuous at-sea deterrence or quick reaction alert or our army deployments around the world. Clearly, we have had to take precautions; we have had to keep our troops safe and have had to ensure that they continue to operate. Those precautions have been put in place, but they have continued to meet the needs. Early on, we had to pause training. That has now gathered momentum again and I am pleased to say that we are seeing an increase in the number of people applying to join our armed forces, which is, I think, inspired by the work that they are doing in all our communities.

The right hon. Gentleman raised other points. What is the plan? We stand ready to support other parts of the Government. We work in partnership with other parts of the Government. As the Department of Health and Social Care and the devolved Governments require our support, we are there to provide and assist.

I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman spoke to the Mayor of Liverpool yesterday. I hear constantly of the great work between Liverpool City Council, the local NHS and our forces who are assisting them in this process. I think the pilot is now at 18 test centres, with a large number continuing to be supplied as we work with the city council. However, it is a pilot, and we need to see what we can learn from it and test its effectiveness, which has been so far, so good. It is scalable, and as part of this programme we are talking to civilian agencies, the council and the NHS about how others can step in. Often, as in the case of the mobile testing units, the armed forces lead the way, but others may well come through if the Department of Health and Social Care and others believe that this should be deployed more widely across the country.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

It may be a while since my right hon. Friend served in the armed forces, but the Scots Guards’ loss is certainly our gain in this place. I thank him for his question. It is not for Defence to tell other Departments how best to deliver their tasking. We are there to support them, and I am proud of the support that we are providing, with liaison officers across Government and other Departments and hundreds of people embedded in local resilience forums, enabling a network of information and intelligence to be gathered and proper support and tasking to be done on the ground.

Stewart Malcolm McDonald Portrait Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

First, I do not know the exact number of requests. I have actually asked, and I will write to the hon. Gentleman with the exact numbers, split between Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. I know that we have been very active. In fact I recall, right at the very start of this crisis—when I was sadly unwell with the wretched thing and battling a high temperature and other symptoms—getting a call at four o’clock in the morning on a MACA request for a gentleman to be moved from Orkney down to what is probably the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. That made quite an impression on me. It showed me, first, how lucky I was, all things considered—that gentleman was seriously ill; and secondly, how wonderful it is that we have professional armed forces, able at the drop of a hat to go and deliver and collect and look after people, wherever they are in our United Kingdom. I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on the specific point regarding the number of MACA requests coming from Scotland. We are delighted to work with the Scottish Government.

On the roll-out of the vaccines, I will not speculate on what role there might be for the Ministry of Defence. We clearly work with other Government Departments, giving logistical and planning support. We are there to help and to provide assistance, but we are still at the very early stages on the vaccine, as the Prime Minister was clear yesterday, so it would be inappropriate to speculate at this stage.

Steve McCabe Portrait Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I think the hon. Gentleman is aware that Defence has been involved from the outset on planning and logistics. At an early stage, Defence was called on, as it is regularly; we have had, on average, about 130 MACA requests a year for the past few years, and we are well used to working at a local level and a national level with partners across Government. There is a role for the military and a role they can pass on. For example, the military did a fantastic job on working with our partners in Health to provide the mobile testing units, but it is appropriate at some stage, when others get up to speed, that we hand over that task in order to be ready to undertake the next role, which in this case includes the whole-city pilot in Liverpool.

Bernard Jenkin Portrait Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I believe I am right in saying that we are indeed assisting NHS Test and Trace, and others; as required, we help with logistics, planning and support, and we are keen to do that. I will not stray into other Departments’ business, but the sheer scale of the build-out that my hon. Friend refers to is obviously the case. It is also the case that we have moved our capability from 2,000 tests a day to more than half a million tests a day. These are huge challenges that have been undertaken by other Departments.

Marion Fellows Portrait Marion Fellows (Motherwell and Wishaw) (SNP) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Nov 2020, 12:06 a.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

At the high point, I believe we had 7,500 military personnel deployed in support of the civil power, so it has been a large-scale commitment by Defence, alongside our other tasks. We stand ready to respond with those numbers or more if required. The hon. Lady is right to say that we are always there to plan, assist and support, but we do so in response to requests, and I know she would respect that principle. Defence is always here to help and to be engaged, and there is a great trust from the British nation, particularly this week, when we think of what has gone before. We always respond at the request of the civil power and to support it.

Harriett Baldwin Portrait Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

There speaks a distinguished former Defence Minister; it is a pleasure to see my hon. Friend in her place. I am glad that she has mentioned DSTL. On a whole series of tasks, from helping the Welsh ambulance service through to planning for a range of options that have come through to the military—including how we roll out modelling for a whole range of projects during the course of this pandemic—DSTL has done a first-class job. I am therefore delighted that she has mentioned it in the Chamber. On recruitment, what she expects has come to pass. We have seen a 13% increase in applications to join the armed forces in the year to July 2020, and retention has increased. That reflects the pride that people have in our armed forces. They see members of the armed forces doing such a valuable task around our country day in, day out, and they are responding in kind.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD) [V]
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We thank the relative of the hon. Gentleman for his or her service in the armed forces. On PPE, all precautions are being taken. We have good advice from the Department of Health as to what PPE should be deployed, and we use that advice to ensure that we are consistently covid compliant. Members of the armed forces currently helping with the pilot scheme in Liverpool are being regularly tested, alongside the residents they are helping and testing. On overseas deployments, we always have a view to our own covid regulations and those of the host nations where we are serving. As a matter of routine, military personnel have a quarantine period before they go out to ensure that they are safe on arrival at their deployed station.

Kieran Mullan Portrait Dr Kieran Mullan (Crewe and Nantwich) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

Absolutely. We are blessed in the armed forces to have reservists with tremendous capabilities, who have been able to provide their expertise and professionalism yet again. I absolutely pay tribute to those reservists who answered the call and came to support us.

Gavin Robinson Portrait Gavin Robinson (Belfast East) (DUP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I am very aware of the support that we have provided to Northern Ireland. We are always ready to support any area of the United Kingdom that requires our support and assistance, and are delighted to work together to get on top of this dreadful pandemic. Any requests made of the Ministry of Defence will be looked at in the usual manner; we would look to help, as always.

Siobhan Baillie Portrait Siobhan Baillie (Stroud) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. The military have a vast range of tasks, not only here at home but overseas. We have continued to operate throughout this period. Precautions have been put in place, but on key issues such as the continuous at-sea deterrent, the quick reaction alert and our forces overseas, the military have continued to maintain their outputs. Importantly, they have been able to continue to train, so we have the confidence that they will be able to provide those key defence tasks into the future.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

10 Nov 2020, midnight

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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10 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

I welcome the points made by the hon. Lady. If I may say so, we are really enjoying working with Liverpool—it is a tremendous team effort and I know that the armed forces are really proud to be part of it. Of course, many of them have been recruited from that area and are really enjoying being able to help their own friends and families and the communities that they know so well.

On the hon. Lady’s specific asks, it is not really for the Ministry of Defence to decide when is the right time for the pilot to come to a conclusion. We are there to provide support and assistance, and if that needs to go on longer, that will definitely be looked at, and I would think it will be looked at very sympathetically, because we want to make certain that there is a successful pilot from which we can take decisions and see whether it can be rolled out more widely. But that is a decision to be taken on the basis of the facts.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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10 Nov 2020, 12:01 a.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend speaks from experience: he is a reservist who served in Operation Herrick, from memory. We try to do intelligent mobilisation—we try to engage with our reservists to see who is available and who might like to be involved, and those with specialist skills in particular invariably say, “Yes, call us.” We are working with our reservists and will always try to give a suitable period of time to enable them to balance family and work commitments. We are enormously indebted to those who step forward.

Rachel Hopkins Portrait Rachel Hopkins (Luton South) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We are all grateful for the work that councils have done—be it Liverpool City Council or councils elsewhere in the country, they have had a huge task to meet. Hundreds of military advisers have been deployed through the local resilience forums, working with councils and other local authorities, and I assure the hon. Lady that we will continue to provide that support.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let us head up to Lichfield—my word, we have the cathedral in the background—to Michael Fabricant, who is looking rather orange today.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con) [V]
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10 Nov 2020, 12:03 a.m.

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend is never shy, and neither is the Ministry of Defence shy in being very proud of the capabilities that we have and can deploy. He is absolutely right that those capabilities include logistics and support of that nature, and we are absolutely ready to provide that support as required.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell (York Central) (Lab/Co-op)
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10 Nov 2020, 12:05 a.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I believe that there are 1,600 medics currently deployed and embedded in the NHS, and we will do all we can to support them throughout the winter period. I do appreciate her interest. We will continue to provide that support to the NHS in the months ahead.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP) [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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To reassure the hon. Gentleman, I do not think that we have ever needed to have that kind of discussion, because when we receive MACA requests, be they from Scotland or from elsewhere, we judge them on their merits, on where we can help and on where there is support that can be provided, and that is routinely honoured. It is not a case of having to ration support at the moment. I think that I said earlier that 7,500 were deployed actively, but I think that was the number available. There are only about 4,000 who are actively deployed on the ground, which means that we always have that extra resilience built in. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, if a request comes in from Scotland or elsewhere, it will always be very sympathetically looked at by the Ministry of Defence.

Dan Carden Portrait Dan Carden (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

May I re-echo what the hon. Gentleman said so accurately about the response that has been met on the ground to armed forces personnel? They have been really chuffed to see the way that people in Liverpool have responded—they have been coming in their thousands to be tested—and they are very grateful for the warmth of their support, and I thank him for reminding the House of that. They will be there to support this programme, but there is a well-founded MACA tradition that the military often lead and find ways of doing things, but then try to pass over to civilian authorities—to Liverpool City Council in the lead working, I suspect, with the Department of Health and Social Care—in the future.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I recognise the particular issues in Kirklees. I am glad that my hon. Friend has brought them to the House’s attention. What we are doing in Liverpool is obviously a pilot, a major undertaking, and we will see the success of that pilot and whether it has scalability to be passed out elsewhere. That is a matter for the Department of Health and others to opine on. On helping elsewhere in the country, the military led with mobile testing units. They were there in the first rank to ensure that testing got up and going. That has now been passed over, and now, I think, there are 620 testing centres around the country, so the Army has stepped back from that, but we stand ready to help in other ways if called upon by other Government Departments.

Emma Hardy Portrait Emma Hardy (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am sorry to hear the statistics from Hull, which are indeed sobering, but I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Dan Carden). There is a particular project at the moment in Liverpool—a whole-city testing pilot. We are there to help and to respond to MACA requests. As a basic principle, we will often lead and show the way, and help pass on our expertise and knowledge to civilian contractors, but fundamentally there comes a point where local authorities and the Department of Health and Social Care will wish to take on the responsibilities for the covid challenge from the military once it has set up processes and worked to establish first principles.

Desmond Swayne Portrait Sir Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I can reassure my right hon. Friend that I know many fine major generals but I do not know any that would wish to return to the 1650s. I can also reassure him that there is no way that the armed forces will be used to enforce coronavirus regulations.

Angela Eagle Portrait Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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First, I wish the hon. Lady’s constituents well at a difficult time, and I am glad that the military has been well received in her constituency. We are looking at how we scale up. We are always in the process of planning to see how we can get the extra resources if required and if called upon, so I have a great deal of confidence that we will be able to continue to meet MACA requests.

Edward Leigh Portrait Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I feel that I ought to declare an interest because I once served in the Treasury—I put that on the record—but I can absolutely reassure my right hon. Friend that decisions made on resources for the armed forces through the integrated review are made on the basis of threat. That is core to the work that we are undertaking, and I hope that he will take that reassurance.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

We will ensure that all deployed personnel get the right PPE and take the right covid precautions. I warmly welcome what the hon. Gentleman says about how the armed forces represent the whole of our great nation right across the board. We are proud that that is the case and we are always working to ensure that it is the case. We will always stand ready to listen to any MACA requests that come in, and we will always look at those sympathetically if we can.

Caroline Ansell Portrait Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I should also declare an interest because I am a Sussex Member of Parliament. Those military personnel have done a terrific job, including, I recall, in May with the mobile testing unit. I am delighted to confirm what my hon. Friend says relating to increased interest in the armed forces. As I say, recruitment is well up this year, as is retention, and I am delighted to see both.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question. We always look at what other people do and how other people respond, but there has been a great well of support—as, indeed, came from him—for the work done by the armed forces, how they have responded to requests that have come in and how they have continued to assist other Departments in ensuring that we get the very best response in this country.

Mark Harper Portrait Mr Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

My understanding is that work is being done on planning, logistics and how we would support the important role with a vaccine, but I really would counsel that this is still very early days on the vaccine, as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday. We are ready to assist on logistics and planning—thoughts, preparations and logistics—but this is early days still.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I call the Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I welcome what my right hon. Friend says about the support that is provided by the armed forces. He is absolutely right that we have a vast array of areas where we can support and provide assistance to other Departments. However, as he is very well aware, the process is that the civil authority comes to us to request assistance, and we always stand ready to receive such reports.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 2nd November 2020

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Defence
Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support defence exports to NATO partners. [908022]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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2 Nov 2020, 2:52 p.m.

The MOD leads on strategic export campaigns to our NATO partners, and from my personal contacts, including recent trips to Estonia and Poland, I know how respected UK military kit and innovation are. We work closely across Government to support British exports and western security.

Aaron Bell Portrait Aaron Bell
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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2 Nov 2020, 2:53 p.m.

I absolutely congratulate the company on its successes, both at home and overseas. I work closely with colleagues in the Department for International Trade, particularly in the defence and security exports team, and I will happily, via my hon. Friend, introduce the company to that team to see what they can do to assist it.

Peter Gibson Portrait Peter Gibson (Darlington) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to support the development of British shipbuilding. [908024]

Break in Debate

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
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What recent assessment he has made of trends in the number of non-disclosure agreements used within his Department’s defence programmes. [908043]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - -

The Ministry of Defence only uses non-disclosure agreements in its commercial arrangements by exception, when there is a specific need. Although no trend analysis has been undertaken, it remains the case that NDAs are only used where absolutely necessary.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am not aware of any company complaining about NDAs. If the right hon. Gentleman is aware of some, I would really encourage those companies to get in contact with me directly and I will take it up.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Jones
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They can’t!

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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There are many means, including through trade associations, whereby companies can put the word to Ministers if they are concerned. NDAs do have a valuable role, including protecting the interests of the commercial entities themselves; they normally work both ways. Many companies are reluctant to share intellectual property, and research and development, with another entity without having their own position protected, so NDAs have a benefit for companies as well.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op)
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If he will bring forward equipment procurement decisions to support the defence manufacturing industry during the covid-19 outbreak. [908044]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - -

We have maintained a close and ongoing dialogue with defence manufacturers throughout the pandemic to ensure that companies are effectively supported. I am pleased to confirm that orders have continued to be placed throughout the crisis.

Geraint Davies Portrait Geraint Davies [V]
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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2 Nov 2020, 3:14 p.m.

There are elements of programmes that are being brought forward. The prime focus now, however, is on supporting the cash flow of the companies and suppliers. We have the means of doing so and we have been doing so. We have also been encouraging primes to support their own supply chains. From what I hear from trade bodies, that has been happening. I am pleased by the way the whole of industry has leant in during this ongoing pandemic and the support they have been given right the way across.

Owen Thompson Portrait Owen Thompson (Midlothian) (SNP)
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What assessment he has made of the potential threat of international disinformation to the security of the UK. [908046]

Break in Debate

Alec Shelbrooke Portrait Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con)
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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? [908075]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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2 Nov 2020, 3:18 p.m.

As a leading European ally, we work closely with allied nations and do not need formal EU programmes to do so. However, I understand that the EU is in the final stages of agreeing third country participation rules for PESCO, and we look forward to seeing them in due course.

John McNally Portrait John Mc Nally (Falkirk) (SNP) [V]
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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? [908078]

Break in Debate

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
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The vital Crowsnest project for the carriers has faced severe delays. Delivery is now promised for September 2021, 18 months late. Can the Minister confirm that it will definitely be ready next year? [908083]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I can confirm that a baseline capability will be sailing with the carrier strike group next year.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con) [V]
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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? [908082]

Break in Debate

Kerry McCarthy Portrait Kerry McCarthy  (Bristol East)  (Lab)
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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? [908086]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am speaking to my colleagues across Government about how we can help with the programme of planting more trees in the environment. There is a large programme ongoing in the estate, and I can assure the hon. Lady that we are very proud of the sites of special scientific interest under our control and what we are doing for the natural environment.

Sara Britcliffe Portrait Sara Britcliffe (Hyndburn) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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? [908084]

Break in Debate

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

I think the hon. Lady is referring to the change from one outsourcing contract to another. We have gained a lot for the taxpayer from the existing contract, and hopefully more will be driven out in the future. We will do nothing that could endanger national security.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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In order to allow the safe exit of Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for a few minutes.

Ministry of Defence Tenants: Evictions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Thursday 15th October 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Danny Kruger Portrait Danny Kruger (Devizes) (Con)
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15 Oct 2020, 5:33 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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15 Oct 2020, 12:03 a.m.

Over the last few weeks, I have had many discussions with my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Stephen Crabb) and other colleagues here today who are representing the 14 sites around England where this has taken place. I am acutely aware from those discussions, and the emails and communications that my hon. Friends have been receiving from their constituents, what a great distress these notices to quit have caused. I am very grateful that my right hon. Friend secured this debate this evening so that we could put more clarity on the situation.

It is perfectly understandable that there are so many difficulties faced by families at this time, as hon. Members have highlighted in this evening’s debate, and I am determined that we do all we can to get to a better solution. I reaffirm at the outset that while we have given notice on these 350 homes, the notice period is a full 12 months for all those homes and for every tenant, taking us through to the end of September 2021. I want to provide full clarity to tenants as soon as possible, but we are totally committed, over the next few weeks and months—if a way can possibly be found with Annington, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara) and other Members suggested —to finding a way to enable tenants to have the offer of remaining in their homes when those properties transfer.

I should be clear from the outset that the MOD’s service family accommodation has one strategic purpose, which is to provide homes for our service personnel and their families wherever and whenever they are required to serve. When we no longer need housing to meet military requirements, they are disposed of. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that over recent years, to reduce the voids, for reasons I will get on to, where properties have been temporarily vacant, we have made those available for sub-let to civilians.

Until 1996, the MOD owned the vast majority of service accommodation outright. However, that year, the MOD entered into an agreement with Annington Homes Ltd. Under the agreement, the MOD provided a 999-year lease to Annington over 57,428 homes. The MOD proceeded to sub-let the same properties under a 200-year underlease. Under the terms of the arrangement, the MOD retained all the costs of maintaining and managing the estate. This, among other reasons, meant that the MOD received a 58% discount on open market rents for the houses concerned for the first 25 years. Hon. Members will appreciate that those 25 years start to come up from next year. Annington has publicly stated that it believes that new rental arrangements should result in a significant increase in rent. The MOD disagrees and the matter is currently subject to arbitration.

Given that both parties recognised from the outset that the needs for MOD housing evolve over time, there was always an understanding that the MOD can return homes to Annington, and since 1996, over 19,000 homes have indeed been given back. Furthermore, last year, we agreed with Annington that we would hand back a minimum of 500 properties annually for the next seven years in return for a reduction on the dilapidation charge on each house of up to £7,000 per property, delivering up to a £24.5 million improvement to the taxpayer. However, homes can only be handed back as a group of contiguous properties, usually minimum packages of 20 homes. Where a group of properties is vacant, and it is absolutely clear that there is no future military use, the route to hand-back is very clear. However, in many cases , I am afraid, the situation has lacked that clarity, and rather than leave family homes vacant for potentially years, the MOD has sub-let those homes on a short-term basis to civilian tenants. First, this provides a home to the tenants; and secondly, it mitigates the cost to the MOD while longer-term decisions are made, or, indeed, while a vacancy exists before service personnel move in. Let me emphasise that we do not actually make money on these civilian lets. After all associated costs, the MOD estimates that they are, on average, loss making, but it is only a small loss compared with that which would otherwise be the case. About 1,500 Annington Homes properties have been sub-let in this way.

I am very sorry that decisions were taken—my right hon. Friend raised this—on the notice to quit and communications made without MPs or, indeed, the local authorities being informed sooner. Decisions that were made on the portfolio of properties that would be passed back to Annington as part of a wider programme were only made during the course of the summer, and I am afraid that covid did have a direct impact on this timing. During the lockdown, base moves were frozen. This has had an ongoing impact throughout the defence estate, with homes that might have been vacated remaining occupied for longer. In addition, during the same period, more than 1,200 service personnel and family members who would ordinarily have moved on from SFA housing either due to the end of service or, sadly, in some cases, due to family estrangement, have, as a result of the specific circumstances of covid, remained in their homes. This number continues to grow.

The consequences of these constraints forced us to identify other properties surplus to MOD requirements that we could hand back. But whatever the strategic position for the MOD and the nature of the short-term tenancies entered into, I want action to be taken for the future, to pick up on the point raised by my right hon. Friend. While it is absolutely right that temporarily vacant homes are made available for rent rather than being left vacant, I want greater clarity at the outset given to residents if the property is expected to be required for military use or disposal, and, if so, in what timeframe.

Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb
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15 Oct 2020, 5:42 p.m.

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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15 Oct 2020, 5:42 p.m.

No such impression should have been given. These are short-term lets with, after the first four months, two months’ notice periods. They are temporarily vacant and they are being occupied on that basis. I was very concerned to hear from my right hon. Friend and from others that that might have taken place. I have received absolute assurances that that was not part of the marketing strategy from the managing agents.

Shailesh Vara Portrait Mr Vara
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15 Oct 2020, 5:43 p.m.

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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15 Oct 2020, 5:43 p.m.

I have been aware of that from my hon. Friend. I am particularly sorry to hear that that was the case, and it should not have been the case. I have had written assurances that no such undertakings were received, but if he would like to write to me further, I will of course pick up on that. I had a written assurance that that was not the case and not part of the marketing, and it certainly should never have been part of the marketing of these properties. We would of course look into that and take it enormously seriously if it was the case.

That makes it even more clear that what we need to ensure for the future is that there is more clarity given to sub-letting tenants. It would be a crying shame not to make homes available that are vacant, but we need to make certain that we are clear regarding tenancies. That work is also being undertaken so that where there are existing tenancies in place, the same process should take place so that tenants can have that peace of mind for the future. I also want to ensure that in circumstances where disposals are due to take place, as in the case that my hon. Friend the Member for North West Cambridgeshire raised, wherever possible those are staggered over time to reduce the impact on local communities. It clearly has a significant impact on local housing demand where disposals happen in too great a number, and I am sure that we can make certain that we stagger them in the future.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire asked why we could not simply rescind. I understand the passion behind the question and I understand what drives it. I cannot pretend to these civilian tenants that there is a long-term future in the MOD estate—that simply is not the case—but I am determined that we will do all we can to make the transfer and the transition as smooth as possible.

My right hon. Friend is also absolutely right that the properties at Cormorant Close are not linked to base utilities. In fairness to Annington, a lot of the data on this goes right back to 1996. I have had a full review of the circumstances for each of these, and we will obviously share that with Annington as, I hope, we move towards a better solution—I sincerely hope that we do—but it turns out that only four of the 14 sites have that linkage to MOD utilities. I hope that is helpful in ongoing discussions.

I do really want us to secure a good and improved circumstance for our tenants. If we can work with social housing providers, as my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger) mentioned, we would clearly wish to do so. We cannot sell to social housing providers; if we can facilitate a process with Annington Homes—that may well be in its interests—we would be very keen to do exactly that.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire asked about the overall shape of things. Yes, we must work with Annington. I really do hope that we can get somewhere. Many Ministers before me have looked at this agreement in detail to find out what levers they have. I am again reviewing where we are with the circumstances, but I really hope that we can come to an agreement. In fairness to Annington, it has not said that it has an in-principle opposition to finding an arrangement, but I am aware that come September next year, it will have the absolute right to demand vacant possession of the homes being transferred. However, we are determined to work with it.

I sincerely hope that we can come to a satisfactory conclusion that works for Annington and works for these sub-let tenants. We will do all we can to try to get to a situation that will work for Annington and has benefits for the tenants concerned.

Question put and agreed to.

RAF Valley: Funding and Employment

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 14th October 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Derek Twigg Portrait Derek Twigg (in the Chair)
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Order. Have we been given notice of the hon. Gentleman’s wish to speak?

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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14 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

Mr Twigg, I am aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie) had communication from the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David). This was also cleared by my office. But I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman made it clear—he can speak for himself, of course.

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 Oct 2020, 12:01 a.m.

Yes, I had submitted to speak, in fact.

Break in Debate

Wayne David Portrait Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab)
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14 Oct 2020, 11:15 a.m.

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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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14 Oct 2020, 12:02 a.m.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Twigg. I want to start by congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie). I knew her before she arrived at this place. I thought she would be a brilliant advocate for her constituents and she has proved to be so, in the way that she has been tackling me directly about this vital base and vital employer in her constituency, and in securing the debate. She will be a redoubtable representative for Ynys Môn. I am also delighted to hear that she is a member of the armed forces parliamentary scheme, with the RAF. I am sure that she will learn from them, and that that will be mutual. I wish her well with the course.

I am grateful, Mr Twigg, that you allowed the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) to make a contribution. It was good to see him here. He is another alumnus of the scheme. There is great cross-party support for defence and what it means to Wales. It is incredibly important, as the hon. Gentleman said, and I shall come on to his points.

There are few better examples of the value of defence to a community than the situation at RAF Valley. My hon. Friend made some points about the station’s history, but I shall not dwell on that. I shall dwell on the present and future, as she would wish me to do. British pilots and jets are occupied day in, day out in the defence of our country, our interests and the free world. In the future, wherever those planes are taking off to protect our airspace or that of our NATO allies, taking part in critical combat missions or flying from the decks of our two deeply impressive new aircraft carriers, the people of Ynys Môn will know that those pilots trained and won their wings among them, on the island.

RAF Valley, as my hon. Friend mentioned, works as a team, harnessing the talents of its cadre of service personnel, civil servants and contractors to train the pilots of the future for both the Royal Navy and the RAF. A crucial aspect of generating that team is the strong working bonds with the local communities and employees and—critically, as my hon. Friend said—the employees of the future. I know that my hon. Friend and all who wish RAF Valley well want ongoing investment and the provision of state-of-the-art aircraft, to make manifest our commitment to the base’s future.

As a threat evolves, the training to meet the threat evolves, and the planes required for training evolve. We are committed to ensuring that RAF Valley is at the core of that evolution. The evidence already, at the base, is apparent. As a result of the decision to concentrate basic flying training at RAF Valley—moving assets, incidentally, from RAF Linton-on-Ouse in North Yorkshire to the island—more focus and investment has been delivered into the base. The station has not only benefited from a sizeable part of the £3.5 billion set aside to deliver military flying training; we have recently also, specifically, spent £20 million on refurbishing the runway.

RAF Valley pilots are trained on the modern and sophisticated Texan and updated Hawk T2 aircraft. Those are a great leap forward from the platforms that they replace, with heads-up display that can accurately simulate weapon attacks and other threats, which ensure the maximum training benefit from every sortie. The Government committed, in the 2015 strategic defence and security review, to increase the number of fast jet squadrons and, thereby, pilots to fly them, all of whom will be trained at the expanded training system at RAF Valley, with more Texan aircraft coming on stream to deliver the training. All levels of fast jet training at RAF Valley are being complemented by advanced synthetic training that can accurately replicate the complex and detailed realistic scenarios that pilots need to train for.

It is not only fast jet training that has had that treatment. The lifesaving search and rescue training that also takes place at RAF Valley has also had a valuable boost, in the form of the new Jupiter helicopter. The overall result has been aircraft and facilities that are among the most advanced in the world. Through the hard work of its staff and the students themselves, RAF Valley is preparing to award Royal Navy and RAF wings to the first six pilots to graduate on the Texan next month. That is a fantastic achievement and a huge moment in a young pilot’s career, and it is the culmination of years of effort and preparation.

The impact of our investment in RAF Valley, on the ground, has been clear. Between 2017-18 and 2019-20 our industrial partners who undertake the critical roles of servicing the aircraft and running the training systems grew the number of their employees at the base from around 450 to just over 600, so nearly 150 additional personnel are being employed at RAF Valley to support the Texan and Jupiter aircraft. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) pointed out, those new colleagues at the base, whom we welcome, are part of a total team of some 1,500, delivering for the base.

We recognise the importance of investing not only in infrastructure and the jobs of today, but in the skills of tomorrow. My hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn made that point very powerfully and she is absolutely right. At RAF Valley, we are proud of the work done on STEM training. Across Wales, some 90,000 students had access to the RAF’s first-rate STEM training programme last year. I know the value of investing in people in north Wales and how it can generate lasting loyalty and an inspiring workforce.

A Babcock-sponsored two-year apprentice programme, in partnership with Coleg Menai in Bangor, has run for four years, generating, to date, 29 apprentices who qualified in aeronautical engineering. I am proud to say that 28 of those are still working at RAF Valley. A further 19 apprentices, currently in training, will graduate in the next two years. Babcock is constantly alive to the need to recruit and retain talent at the base. Seven employees remain who were redeployed from RAF Linton-on-Ouse, and cash awards are paid to employees who successfully refer new colleagues.

Set against the context of that positive background of new assets who have moved to RAF Valley, of new roles created and skills training being delivered, I shall now address the understandable concerns that brought my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn to this debate, regarding the recent speculation around the future of Hawk T1 maintenance and what that might mean for those currently employed by one of our commercial partners, BAE Systems. As she is aware, Hawk T1s are no longer used operationally from RAF Valley. The remaining Hawk T1s used operationally are based at RAF Leeming, at the royal naval air squadron at Culdrose, and in Lincolnshire with the Red Arrows. While every capability is subject to the current integrated review, the Red Arrows T1s are expected to reach their out-of-service date in 2030 and the rest of the fleet in 2027, as set out in the strategic defence and security review 2015.

The RAF is currently undergoing a review of how best to deliver all aspects of servicing and maintenance for the Hawk T1s through to their OSDs. My officials are in discussions with BAE Systems and we are determining potential options for a Hawk 2020 support contract. I emphasise that, at this stage, no decisions have been taken. Any future decision will be based on a range of factors.

Making the right operational decision is critical. The RAF needs to ensure that its planes can be reliably serviced and are constantly available. That emphasises the vital importance of continuing to grow the skills base to provide the engineers that we need at RAF Valley and more widely. Naturally, we also need to consider value-for-money arguments, and we are also keenly focused on the UK Government’s commitment to levelling up the whole of the UK and supporting the Union. Discussions are ongoing and we will update the community as soon as any decisions are made. I re-emphasise that no decisions have, as yet, been made.

The personnel of RAF Valley have a deep commitment to working with and supporting the local community, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ynys Môn touched on that. There are many examples of that close working relationship. I know that there is a strong team at RAF Valley, delivering for defence and also delivering many benefits to the local community. The bonds are very strong. I thank the hon. Lady for giving me the opportunity to set out the current situation and I thank all Members for their interest and the recognition of the vital need to continue to train our military jet pilots to the highest level of expertise and of the vital role played by RAF Valley. I had hoped to be able to give the hon. Lady a couple of minutes to reply, but I do not believe I can under the rules of the House. I apologise to her and thank her again for bringing the matter to this Chamber. As I say, the bonds around RAF Valley are very strong, as is our commitment to that vital and internationally highly regarded base.

Question put and agreed to.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 21st September 2020

(5 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to support the domestic manufacture of defence helicopters. [906249]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The Department is committed to supporting UK helicopters and the defence industry more broadly. Over the next decade, we plan to spend over £180 billion on equipment and equipment support, which currently includes around £10.9 billion on helicopter capability.

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

I share my hon. Friend’s concern. I am pleased to reassure him that those redundancies do not relate to any changes of plan on Ministry of Defence work, but rather to a decision taken by the company to ensure that it remains on a financially strong footing. We continue to work actively with Leonardo on its excellent Merlin and Wildcat helicopters, and I am pleased to support its export drives, including earlier this month in person, in Poland.

Khalid Mahmood Portrait Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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We are proud to support many British companies and the entire UK defence sector. Something like £19.2 billion was given to UK companies in 2018-19 to deliver on our defence needs. This has been brought out through our defence and security industrial strategy—DSIS—of which I look forward to sharing more details with the House when it is delivered later this year.

Gagan Mohindra Portrait Mr Gagan Mohindra (South West Hertfordshire) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to ensure that armed forces capability is adequate to tackle future security threats. [906250]

Break in Debate

Marcus Fysh Portrait Mr Marcus Fysh (Yeovil) (Con)
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What steps his Department has taken to support Government procurement during the covid-19 outbreak. [906260]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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21 Sep 2020, 3:05 p.m.

Throughout the pandemic, orders have continued to be made and placed and suppliers paid. The MOD has to date paid £123 million in interim payments to ensure that critical defence outputs can continue uninterrupted, and engaged directly with 600 of its critical suppliers. In addition, as part of the Treasury fiscal stimulus programme, an additional £200 million of funding has been allocated to improve the defence estate accommodation.

Marcus Fysh Portrait Mr Fysh [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Short-term support is great, but companies such as Leonardo in my constituency need long-term certainty on programmes as they fight back from covid. What can the Minister do to provide such certainty?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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21 Sep 2020, 3:06 p.m.

My hon. Friend is a great advocate for Leonardo and for military helicopters. The publication of the integrated review and, in particular, the defence and security industrial strategy will provide a great deal of certainty. In addition, in the case of Leonardo, through our strategic partnering arrangement we are establishing a joint working group to support future capability and understanding.

Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

What recent assessment he has made of the level of threat of private and mercenary military forces to (a) the UK and (b) the UK’s allies. [906261]

Break in Debate

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies (Fylde) (Con) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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? [906311]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the RAF must have the very best capabilities to meet future threats. This is naturally a focus of the integrated review, and I can assure him that Lancashire’s critical role in combat air, and the skills it represents, are very much recognised and understood.

Jamie Stone Portrait Jamie Stone (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross) (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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? [906314]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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As the hon. Gentleman knows, although that road runs through MOD land, it is an adopted road. Having said that, MOD contractors have filled in potholes and cleared ditches and culverts, and we will see what we can do. I am more than happy to meet the hon. Gentleman.

David Simmonds Portrait David  Simmonds  (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
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  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? [906313]

Break in Debate

Holly Mumby-Croft Portrait Holly  Mumby-Croft  (Scunthorpe)  (Con)
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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? [906318]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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My hon. Friend is a great advocate for her constituents. We have recently received a bid from the council for that asset of community value and will be contacting it to discuss the offer and the value it would deliver for taxpayers.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar  (Warley) (Lab)
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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? [906331]

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2020

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con)
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What assessment his Department has made of trends in the level of demand for tracked vehicles in the armed forces. [904223]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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6 Jul 2020, 3:05 p.m.

Armoured tracked vehicles remain at the core of Defence’s high-intensity war-fighting capability, and ongoing demand is evidenced in the Army’s investment in new fully digitised tracked Ajax vehicles.

Richard Holden Portrait Mr Holden
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6 Jul 2020, 3:05 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am grateful for that invitation. I am speaking to north-east defence companies on a call next week. Our ability to make physical visits to companies has clearly been restrained by covid, but as soon as my diary allows, I would be delighted to visit Cook Defence Systems in person.

Wendy Chamberlain Portrait Wendy Chamberlain (North East Fife) (LD)
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What recent estimate his Department has made of the level of departmental official development assistance spend. [904224]

Break in Debate

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Ben Spencer (Runnymede and Weybridge) (Con)
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What steps Defence Science and Technology is taking to help tackle the covid-19 outbreak. [904229]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Defence Science and Technology is drawing on its unique range of specialist skills to support the covid response, including assistance on testing laboratories, statistical analysis, modelling support, decontamination trials, and experiments to understand how the virus survives in the atmosphere and on different surfaces.

Ben Spencer Portrait Dr Spencer
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory—through covid, through its response to the outrageous attack in Salisbury and in countless other ways—has shown its value to the country, and that is also recognised by our international partners. I assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to invest to meet the threats of the future.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab)
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What plans his Department has made in the event that the UK does not reach an agreement on its future relationship with the EU by the end of the transition period. [904231]

Break in Debate

Simon Fell Portrait Simon Fell (Barrow and Furness) (Con)
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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? [904298]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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Just to reassure my hon. Friend, we have 169 sites of special scientific interest in the defence estate, and we care very deeply about that and our role as a good champion of conservation. My hon. Friend is assiduous on behalf of the jobs in his constituency, and defence jobs in particular. I fully appreciate his concerns on coastal erosion, but I am happy to reassure him that it is not currently considered a risk to submarine movements, although I am grateful for his ongoing interest.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Monday 16th March 2020

(11 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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6. What recent assessment he has made of the adequacy of Army equipment. [901530]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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16 Mar 2020, midnight

The Army conducts annual assessments to ensure that it has the right equipment for the future. It is undergoing an ambitious capability transformation programme, including investing in new, fully digitised Ajax and Boxer vehicles.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The hon. Gentleman is right: we need the very best equipment for our armed forces. As he is probably aware, the Army has no fewer than nine key projects for equipment modernisation, totalling some £17 billion over the next 10 years, and around 130 smaller projects. He mentions two in particular. On Challenger 2, we are well advanced through the assessment phase and will take decisions on that at a future date. On Warrior, we are on to the demonstration phase, which is going well, and we will be taking decisions in the future.

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, midnight

We are getting to grips with it right now. We are grateful to the NAO for its work. I gently point out to the hon. Lady that the Department hit budget this year, last year and the year before. We constantly review budgets to make certain that the equipment plan is affordable. We have shrunk the gap significantly, and we had additional assistance from the Treasury last year. We will make certain that we are meeting the needs of the armed forces.

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, midnight

The integrated review is under way; it is nowhere near to bringing itself to any conclusions yet. The review looks at the totality of our place in the world, as the hon. Lady recognises, and how we operate as a country across the broadest spectrum. It is not a review designed to cut costs. It is a review designed to ensure that we know what we are doing in the world and that that is effected through really effective equipment—that is the purpose of the integrated review, and we look forward to its response.

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) (Con)
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16 Mar 2020, 2:55 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, 2:54 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend and to his Defence Committee for their work. The integrated review is important: it is important that we get on to it and move on with it at pace. We need to take firm decisions, and the swifter the better. However, as ever, we are mindful of events, and such things will obviously be taken into consideration if they need to be.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. It was a great pleasure to visit his constituency and see at first hand the extraordinary skills in that constituency, and it was a great pleasure to meet many apprentices. As I said earlier about Challenger 2, we are in the assessment phase, and a decision on any next steps will be taken at a later date. I thank my hon. Friend for the question and the interest he always shows in the defence manufacturers in his constituency.

Jessica Morden Portrait Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)
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7. What steps his Department is taking to support the families of armed forces personnel. [901531]

Break in Debate

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double (St Austell and Newquay) (Con)
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18. What steps his Department is taking to ensure that the capabilities of the armed forces are adequate to address future threats. [901547]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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The Ministry of Defence has rigorous processes to assure, test and develop our capabilities to keep our country safe. This will be looked at again as part of a thorough wide-ranging analysis through the integrated review.

Steve Double Portrait Steve Double
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16 Mar 2020, 3:10 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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We have established a space directorate, which is tasked with how to advance opportunities for the UK commercial space sector. I absolutely assure my hon. Friend that space and its potential will form a part of the integrated review.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:14 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, 3:15 p.m.

The right hon. Gentleman is right that there has been a long period—nine years—of assessment and demonstration of the Warrior programme. It is important that it is looked at and that we have the right kit to take the Warrior through to 2040 and perhaps beyond. I confirm that we are at the demonstration phase. Any future steps will be taken at the conclusion of that phase.

Anthony Mangnall Portrait Anthony Mangnall (Totnes) (Con)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:15 p.m.

Can the Minister reassure hon. Members and tell us what steps he will take to ensure that the continuous at-sea deterrent continues to function during the covid-19 outbreak?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, 3:15 p.m.

That is a perfectly reasonable question, but it will become familiar to my hon. Friend that we do not comment on CASD in this place. I thank him for his interest.

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:16 p.m.

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?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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We have world-leading capabilities in cyber. I am comfortable and confident that, as part of the integrated review, we will put in place strong plans to further strengthen that work. In my contact with my European Union defence counterparts across the EU to date, they have been extremely keen to continue to work closely with the United Kingdom as sovereign equals. After all, we are the biggest spender on defence in western Europe, as the hon. Lady is aware.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. [901549]

Break in Debate

Joy Morrissey Portrait Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) (Con)
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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? [901550]

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:18 p.m.

My hon. Friend is right. Martin-Baker produces the ejector seats for our F-35s that fly off HMS Queen Elizabeth. Diary permitting, I would be delighted to join her.

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab)
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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?

Break in Debate

Henry Smith Portrait Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con)
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T5. I very much welcome the Ministry of Defence submarine sonar contract being awarded to Crawley-based Thales. Can my hon. Friend say a little more about the employment possibilities that the contract brings? [901554]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, 3:22 p.m.

This £330 million sonar and mast contract is indeed good news. It will secure or create highly skilled jobs in Thales in Scotland, Greater Manchester and Somerset—and 30, I am delighted to say, in the constituency of my hon. Friend and neighbour in Crawley.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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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? [901555]

Break in Debate

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
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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? [901557]

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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16 Mar 2020, 3:23 p.m.

My hon. Friend has in the past raised this company, its work and particularly its apprenticeships with me. Diary permitting, I would be very pleased to visit it with him.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:24 p.m.

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?

Break in Debate

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:29 p.m.

What future is envisaged for Team Tempest and the combat air strategy in the defence and security review?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
- Hansard - -

As my hon. Friend knows, the future of air combat, on which we have published a review, is an incredibly important aspect of our future defence, but I will not speculate on individual aspects of the integrated review, because it would be inappropriate to do so. We should be looking at the whole process of defence, and all the capabilities that we need to keep ourselves and our allies safe in the future.

Mark Pritchard Portrait Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con)
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16 Mar 2020, 3:29 p.m.

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?

Cawdor Barracks

Jeremy Quin Excerpts
Wednesday 26th February 2020

(12 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Stephen Crabb Portrait Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con)
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26 Feb 2020, 2:15 p.m.

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