Ajax Noise and Vibration Review

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Wednesday 15th December 2021

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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To confuse the right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood) is not a mistake that I would dare to make, Madam Deputy Speaker.

My right hon. Friend is right: this is a £5.5 billion firm-priced contract. I am very clear that we have a contract that says that 589 vehicles will be delivered that will meet our requirements for a price of £5.5 billion. That contract is very, very clear. I see no reason why this House or the taxpayer should pay more money to General Dynamics to produce 589 vehicles, when we have a contract for it to produce 589 vehicles to our requirements for £5.5 billion.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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The Minister is to be congratulated on honestly identifying departmental failings. We all welcome that. It therefore seems almost churlish to criticise, but we have to, because the report skirts the core issue. Its conclusion admits that the vehicle

“is not fit for purpose”,

but nowhere that I can see does it state the deadline for deciding whether the project can ever succeed; if it cannot, whether the Department has to terminate the contract; and if so, what contingency plans it has. Or will the project just limp on, burning cash and putting our troops at risk with a dangerous capability gap?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The right hon. Gentleman raises good questions, but I hope that I can reassure him in part. The conclusion does say that the vehicle is not fit for purpose. Of course it is not fit for purpose now, because anything that does not meet our requirements is not fit for purpose. We cannot put personnel at risk, so absolutely it is not a vehicle that we can take on now, and we are not prepared to. We will only take into service a vehicle that actually works for our purposes and meets our requirements.

There is work to be done, but the decision point on whether that can be achieved with this vehicle is not now. A huge amount of work is being done. The time to take those decisions is after the root cause analysis has been concluded. As I said, GD has its own theories and has done its own work, and it believes that it has design modifications that could well fit the bill, but I am not going to take a decision on that until we have examined them and it is more confident of their grounds.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Monday 20th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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It is absolutely on track. Further progress was made last week with our international partners Italy and Sweden, both of which I have been in discussions with over the summer, and it is on my agenda for my meeting tomorrow with the Defence Secretary in Japan. Our £2 billion investment in the future combat air system is benefiting from the co-investment of hundreds of millions of pounds from our industrial partners.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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Of course, jobs in the defence industry depend on contracts, so may I come back to the question about the fleet solid support ships posed directly by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), which the Minister has tried to slide by? Why does the Minister not give a clear message to the industry and the workforce that the Government will prioritise British jobs and the design contracts will clearly go to a British firm? Why not make a proper decision and send that message, which should also go to the steel industry?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I am hoping to send an exact message. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman that, as I have said, we have made it absolutely clear that the contract will go to a British company, solely or as part of a consortium. We have introduced the social-value model, which is included in the defence and security industrial strategy, and it will play a significant part in the overall assessment phase. The right hon. Gentleman has pushed for this competition for a long time; it is ongoing and is going to happen, and I am looking forward to it. I am certain that British companies will be absolutely embedded throughout the process.

Ajax Armoured Vehicle Procurement

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Thursday 9th September 2021

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was smiling merely at the sporting analogy, which I do not think is appropriate. I have already mentioned the MPA’s valuable role, and I am grateful for the work that the IPA is doing in assisting us by looking at the project and how its management can be improved. It has a series of traffic light systems, and my right hon. Friend is right that two of our projects are rated red. There is a whole series of colours; from memory, three projects are green-amber. None is green, which would signal that there are no problems. However, in fairness, if we look at every major country acquiring major defence assets, we see that these are complex and difficult programmes. The importance of the MPA is that it draws attention to problems and to the issues that need to be undertaken and achieved to hit programme targets. A red rating does not mean that it is wholly unachievable; it does mean that there are very serious issues to be addressed, as is patently the case with Ajax, and as I would be the very first to admit that.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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We have learnt some things today. Unachievable does not actually mean unachievable. The Minister also said that if eventually the programme ends, the liability lies with General Dynamics. What does that mean for the £3.5 billion that has already been paid for the delivery of only 14 vehicles? Will we get that back? Following the Chair of the Defence Committee, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), and my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), the most important question is: what are the timescales for the tests and for the re-engineering? What is the end date? At what stage—roughly what month, or even which quarter—will the Minister decide whether the project is still viable or when it is time to draw stumps and start again?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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What we have with General Dynamics is a firm price contract. That means that it has undertaken to deliver 589 vehicles for a set specification, and we have undertaken to pay it £5.5 billion for that number of vehicles, at that specification. There is clarity on the contract. It is a strong, firm contract on which GD is determined to deliver, and we are working closely with it. I am afraid, however, that I cannot give a firm date. I know that the right hon. Gentleman, like other hon. Members, would like me to do so—and I would, too. The reality is that we need to get those trials done and the tests analysed, and then we need to find out whether the proposed engineering solutions will work. The right hon. Gentleman is generous and would not wish me to provide alarm and concern to the employees and firms that are doing the work. I know that he appreciates that we need to do the work and ensure that we do our utmost to make the programme work.

Ajax Programme

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Tuesday 8th June 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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Yes, we can learn from all procurements. We learn something from everything that is done. I wish this was a totally smooth process. It has not been—from the recast in 2014, to the recast in 2019, the delay to IOC and the fact that here we are, at this point, with two significant issues that I still need to get to grips with and resolve. We will have points to learn from, but I gently say to the House that a demonstration phase is a demonstration phase. We need to learn through a demonstration phase and then apply what we have learned.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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The Minister seemed slightly hurt that the shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), described him as complacent, and then he went on to confirm that description. He talked about vibration. He took the manufacturer’s word for it, even though the users found something different. Talk about shades of “dieselgate”. He said that the noise can be mechanical, but somehow, he does not seem to have got to the bottom of where it is coming from. He said that Ajax is capable of firing on the move, but somehow, it does not seem to be able to do so at the moment. Do the troops on the frontline not deserve something better, and does he not need to get a grip?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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The right hon. Gentleman made a number of points. On the vibration, if I took the word of the supplier, we would have met IOC and we would not have issues. I take the word of our crews who have been training on the vehicle; that is why we have taken it so seriously, why we have commissioned the reports that we have commissioned and why the vehicles are currently at Millbrook being put through their paces. I absolutely reassure the House that we will not take the programme into IOC until we are confident that we have achieved what we need to achieve at this stage of the vehicle’s development. I absolutely stand by that.

The right hon. Gentleman also made points about firing on the move and the speed restrictions; there is a difference between the certification of rolling process, certification during a demonstration and future phases, and what the vehicle is capable of.

Defence and Security Industrial Strategy

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Tuesday 23rd March 2021

(10 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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On my hon. Friend’s last point, we are very focused on increasing availability to make certain that our ships are where they should be—at sea, often present. The example we have set with HMS Montrose of having the crew going out to the ship rather than the ship endlessly coming to and from is a great example of how our ships can be more present and more persistent and have more influence around the world.

Yes, there will be more ships; we will set out more detail in the shipbuilding strategy, which will look not only at the Royal Navy but across the totality of Government expenditure on shipbuilding. There will be good news—more good news—on shipbuilding in the UK; of that I have absolutely no doubt. We have set out our numbers—eight Type 26s and five Type 31s—but in addition there will be more news on Type 32s and other vessels that we will be procuring, including the fleet solid support ships.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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On the fleet solid support ships, the announcement is of course enormously welcome, but why has it taken us—particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and I—so long to persuade Ministers to designate them as naval vessels, as they have done today? Similarly, it is good that we are moving away from global by default, but why not behave like every other industrial country by looking after our own industry and making it clear to officials right the way down the line that the policy is now British by default?

Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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I know that the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) have been assiduous. I once accused him of being a cracked record, but at least it was a very patriotic tune. I appreciate his campaign and that of the right hon. Member for North Durham. They were pushing on an open door. We wanted to make certain that FSS has a lot of value to the UK in broad terms, as well as to the Royal Navy. More information will be given on that in due course.

I can guarantee that we will have a good close working relationship with our naval shipbuilders. I look forward to more orders coming their way in the future as we see the full benefit of our national shipbuilding programme play out in the years and decades ahead. I have no doubt that this strategy will signal a renaissance in our relationship with onshore building in the UK, but it is a nuanced approach; we are making certain that we get the kit we need in the best way we possibly can.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Monday 7th December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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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.

Jeremy Quin Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Jeremy Quin)
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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
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The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions has argued forcefully for defence orders to be brought forward to help our industry through the economic crisis, especially in our regions and nations. The Navy carrier group needs the fleet solid support ships, and the Department has the specifications from the previous bidding round. It is a project that is really shovel or welding-ready, so when is the Secretary of State going to get off his backside and start ordering these ships? [Interruption.] He may even want to intervene and answer himself.

Defence Procurement and Supply Chains

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall
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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.[Official Report, 7 December 2020, Vol. 685, c. 6MC.] 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
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I give way to the right hon. Gentleman, as I thought I might have to.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
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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
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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
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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
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Monday 21st September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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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?

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Spellar and Jeremy Quin
Monday 16th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jeremy Quin Portrait Jeremy Quin
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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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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?