There have been 64 exchanges involving Philip Dunne and the Ministry of Defence
|Mon 7th December 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (115 words)|
|Mon 6th July 2020||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (84 words)|
|Wed 8th May 2019||Military Aircraft Manufacturing (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (110 words)|
|Wed 10th April 2019||Continuous At-Sea Deterrent||9 interactions (1,652 words)|
|Mon 18th February 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (46 words)|
|Mon 14th January 2019||Oral Answers to Questions||3 interactions (56 words)|
|Tue 18th December 2018||Modernising Defence Programme||3 interactions (84 words)|
|Tue 17th July 2018||Combat Air Strategy||3 interactions (62 words)|
|Wed 11th July 2018||Defence Industry and Shipbuilding||19 interactions (314 words)|
|Mon 9th July 2018||Oral Answers to Questions||5 interactions (100 words)|
|Mon 27th June 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||58 interactions (1,053 words)|
|Tue 24th May 2016||Yemen: Cluster Munitions (Urgent Question)||54 interactions (2,164 words)|
|Tue 3rd May 2016||Defence (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (278 words)|
|Mon 25th April 2016||Shipbuilding on the Clyde (Urgent Question)||61 interactions (3,493 words)|
|Mon 18th April 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||58 interactions (1,689 words)|
|Wed 2nd March 2016||Defence (Ministerial Corrections)||4 interactions (215 words)|
|Mon 29th February 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (959 words)|
|Mon 18th January 2016||Oral Answers to Questions||36 interactions (1,122 words)|
|Wed 13th January 2016||Defence Procurement (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (2,133 words)|
|Tue 24th November 2015||Trident||10 interactions (1,404 words)|
|Mon 23rd November 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||49 interactions (1,298 words)|
|Wed 18th November 2015||Electrical Shore Supplies (Nuclear-powered Submarines) (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,579 words)|
|Thu 29th October 2015||Defence (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (131 words)|
|Fri 23rd October 2015||Defence Expenditure (NATO Target) Bill||47 interactions (11,775 words)|
|Mon 19th October 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||33 interactions (966 words)|
|Tue 21st July 2015||Avro Vulcan XH558 (Westminster Hall)||4 interactions (1,461 words)|
|Mon 13th July 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||44 interactions (1,188 words)|
|Tue 23rd June 2015||BUTEC Facility (North-West Scotland)||12 interactions (2,817 words)|
|Mon 8th June 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||11 interactions (292 words)|
|Thu 12th March 2015||Defence Spending||13 interactions (1,999 words)|
|Mon 23rd February 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||27 interactions (888 words)|
|Tue 20th January 2015||Trident Renewal||15 interactions (1,510 words)|
|Mon 12th January 2015||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (703 words)|
|Mon 24th November 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||21 interactions (411 words)|
|Mon 20th October 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||59 interactions (1,421 words)|
|Mon 14th July 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||25 interactions (553 words)|
|Tue 8th July 2014||RAF Fast Jets||2 interactions (1,532 words)|
|Mon 12th May 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||23 interactions (647 words)|
|Tue 29th April 2014||Defence Reform Bill||23 interactions (3,072 words)|
|Mon 28th April 2014||Defence (Ministerial Corrections)||6 interactions (291 words)|
|Tue 8th April 2014||Military Credit Union (Westminster Hall)||24 interactions (2,897 words)|
|Mon 17th March 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (915 words)|
|Tue 11th March 2014||International Military Sales Ltd (Westminster Hall)||9 interactions (1,314 words)|
|Mon 3rd February 2014||Oral Answers to Questions||22 interactions (558 words)|
|Mon 16th December 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (1,123 words)|
|Tue 3rd December 2013||Royal Navy Ships (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,225 words)|
|Wed 20th November 2013||Defence Reform Bill||10 interactions (2,048 words)|
|Mon 4th November 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||38 interactions (1,167 words)|
|Thu 17th October 2013||Defence (Ministerial Corrections)||2 interactions (732 words)|
|Mon 2nd September 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||37 interactions (1,107 words)|
|Mon 2nd September 2013||Mobile Phones (Ministerial Corrections)||3 interactions (267 words)|
|Tue 16th July 2013||Defence Reform Bill||4 interactions (2,720 words)|
|Wed 10th July 2013||UK Submarine Supply Chain (Westminster Hall)||10 interactions (1,662 words)|
|Mon 17th June 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||33 interactions (858 words)|
|Mon 15th April 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (1,085 words)|
|Mon 25th February 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||47 interactions (1,234 words)|
|Thu 17th January 2013||Nuclear Deterrent||2 interactions (1,444 words)|
|Wed 16th January 2013||Defence Industrial Base (Scotland) (Ministerial Corrections)||3 interactions (149 words)|
|Mon 14th January 2013||Oral Answers to Questions||26 interactions (671 words)|
|Tue 11th December 2012||Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Westminster Hall)||23 interactions (2,689 words)|
|Mon 26th November 2012||Oral Answers to Questions||31 interactions (836 words)|
|Tue 6th November 2012||Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Westminster Hall)||6 interactions (1,295 words)|
|Mon 22nd October 2012||Oral Answers to Questions||13 interactions (508 words)|
|Mon 10th September 2012||Invincible Class Carriers (Written Statements)||1 interactions (401 words)|
My hon. Friend is right to acknowledge the important contribution that defence activities make in helping to create the secure conditions essential for sustained economic development. As he may have heard me say to the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran), to be constrained by the definition would do a disservice to our freedom of manoeuvre as the Ministry of Defence, but we very much hope that ODA rules could be changed to reflect the very wide range of activities that defence is involved in but that currently are not accounted for as part of our ODA spend.
The MOD makes procurement decisions based on security, capability requirement, cost, supply chain and other social value considerations and will continue to do so. The November 2020 changes to the Green Book will ensure that there is an increased focus on setting clear objectives and consideration of location-based impacts. MOD footprint and spend is widely distributed across the UK and future procurement will continue to reflect this.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right, especially in that last observation, and I congratulate him on his prosperity report. He was clearly thinking ahead of the Treasury at the time, and I am delighted that it has recognised the importance and contribution that those changes will make to levelling up and closing the north-south divide. While the end-of-year rules were not changed, the recent £24.1 billion multi-year settlement with the Treasury will now allow the MOD to invest in next generation military capability across the whole United Kingdom.
The hon. Lady is exactly right. Development and security sit hand in hand and, as such, knowing that a review is ongoing, we are looking at exactly where development activity is essential to the security function that our armed forces are seeking to provide overseas. We will be making the case for that spending to remain unchanged.
The Government are currently conducting work on the UK’s defence and security industrial strategy to identify the steps we should take to ensure a competitive, innovative and world-class industrial base. I will use this opportunity to ensure that, as well as delivering the best capabilities to the UK armed forces, we are driving investment, employment and prosperity across the whole of the United Kingdom.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the fact that defence procurement and innovation should be linked and should link into prosperity and alternatives, using that technology to enhance prosperity across the United Kingdom. During the financial year 2018-19, Defence invested £1.65 billion in research and development, which included £580 million spent on cutting-edge science and technology. Without trying to pre-empt the integrated review, it is absolutely clear that at the heart of it will be not only innovation but a recognition that prosperity is what our taxpayers, at local and UK level, should expect for their money.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very valid point.
I will now focus on the national value framework aspect of the combat air strategy, which states that the UK must consider a number of items. For example, it is important to maintain military capabilities and our ability to respond quickly and effectively to threats. We must maintain choice in our future combat air capability and acquisition. We must sustain investment in highly skilled jobs throughout the supply chain, the contribution to the UK’s science, technology, engineering and maths skills base, the development of high-end technologies, and the influence on international and trade relationships.
Above all, we need to ensure that we protect the UK’s operational, technological and economic advantage, and the ability, when required, to act independently, freely and at will. As part of any future strategy, we must also ensure that the needs and future requirements of the RAF are central and critical.
It comes as no surprise that my right hon. Friend’s intervention is full of facts and knowledge, because he speaks as a former Minister for Defence Procurement. He is right that the people involved in the early stage of the development of platforms such as Team Tempest need that assurance and they need contracts to come through. It is important that the money that the Government have already committed at Farnborough, which I understand is part of the overall £2 billion envelope, begins to feed through into live programmes and work, and not just at large organisations such as BAE Systems, but at many of the smaller organisations within the supply chain. An aircraft supply chain is not a light that can be switched on and off; we have to maintain the drumbeat and ensure that programmes have work coming through and that innovation has a purpose.
On Team Tempest, is it possible for the Minister to update us today on where we are at with regard to building partnerships with other partner nations? What does that international collaborative effort look like? Where does he think we can go in terms of not only building a platform that is flexible in meeting the needs of the RAF, but ensuring that the platform is highly exportable and can take on the likes of France and the United States, which have several aircraft platforms that will fulfil a number of key segments of the export market? If we do not have an exportable aircraft as part of our future programme, and we rely solely on RAF orders or orders placed by partner nations, the programme will not be able to sustain the UK manufacturing sector in future.
I thank the Minister for the work that he and his predecessors have done to drive innovation within the manufacturing sector, but I urge him to look at programmes such as Hawk. Although it is not as shiny or exciting as future programmes such as Tempest, it is the solid trainer aircraft that we have depended on for the past 30-plus years, and it is fair to say that it is the only military aircraft that the United Kingdom manufactures throughout.
I pay tribute to the trade unions representatives, particularly from Brough, who come down, speak to members and get their points across. I urge the Minister to continue to work with the trade union movement in the military aircraft sector to ensure that we have a united team building a platform for the future and ensuring the UK’s manufacturing base. With that, I will conclude and give him time to respond.
It is for the simple reason that, in the unlikely event of anyone being mad enough to attack us—because we have the ability to retaliate—it would be simple to target missiles to retaliate against them, and that could easily result in the obliteration of any country unwise enough to launch a nuclear attack against a nuclear power such as ourselves.
I accept the fact that Labour has a problem with certain key figures who have always been opposed in principle to the possession of a nuclear deterrent. However, today is not the day to have that debate. I know that the shadow Defence Secretary and every one of the Labour Back Benchers whom I see opposite are wholly committed to keeping this country safe and strong. If anyone can ensure that the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Chancellor are not allowed to undermine the sensible policy outlined from the Opposition Front Bench today, it is that cohort of people. I wish them the best of luck in that endeavour.
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I could not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman says. Those of us who are on the Defence Committee are very aware of that threat.
Russia has revamped and reoccupied seven former USSR bases in the Arctic. This is important to its ability to project power down through the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap. Access into the north Atlantic and the ability to disrupt or control the sea lines of communications between North America and Europe would have a huge impact on the global economy, as well as preventing reinforcements from reaching Europe in the event of hostilities or crisis.
Russia has new capabilities, such as the Kilo SSKs, which are armed with dual-capability Kalibr missiles, which are very fast. The Yasen—SSBN—and Kalina-class subs are extremely long endurance. Russia has about 40 combat subs, the balance of which are in the northern fleet. Added to those impressive new subs are modern patrol boats, frigates, and destroyers, all joined by a new ability to deploy submarines by stealth, explore underwater cables and exercise electronic warfare jamming.
Russia has also done something else: it has withdrawn from the 1987 intermediate-range nuclear forces treaty. The US and NATO argue that Russia has violated the INF treaty by testing and deploying a prohibited intermediate-range cruise missile. Russian officials deny that the missile in question—the 9M729—can fly that far. We tend to forget that the INF treaty banned all US and Soviet ground-launched missiles of intermediate range—that is, between 500 and 5,500 kilometres—and it resulted in the destruction of some 2,700 missiles up to 1991. There is a simple way of resolving this conflict: the special verification commission, established as part of the INF treaty, could be used to work out procedures for Russia to show that its missile does not fly that far. Russia has refused to do so. However, this is not just about new missiles and whether a treaty has been broken. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has made it clear that these missiles are hard to detect, mobile and nuclear capable, and they can reach European cities. They are a direct threat to NATO.
Equally, China is not a signatory to the INF treaty. It has deployed intermediate-range missiles on its territory. It has also begun to turn its attention away from land forces and towards the sea. Since 2013, there has been a marked acceleration in China’s investment in naval resources. In 2017, it overtook the US as having the world’s largest navy, whose reach goes beyond traditional strategic interests in the South China sea. That navy includes an impressive number of submarines—about 60, according to the United States Congressional Research Service. Not all of them carry nuclear warheads, but China is reported to be seeking to diversify the structure of its nuclear forces and to have a credible deterrence.
Alongside its fleet, China has opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, and continues to develop interests in bases across the Indian Ocean. It also has an ambitious strategy of investment in commercial ports around the world. The Hudson Institute estimates that 10% of all equity in ports in Europe—including ports in Ukraine, Georgia and Greece—is now owned by Chinese companies. Much of the strategy is economic, but it brings with it defence threats.
For 50 years, this deterrent has kept us safe. We owe a huge debt of thanks, not just for the past but for the future, to those men and women in the silent service—in our industrial base—who continue to provide peace, security and stability, and who have prevented nuclear war for all those 50 years.
I welcome this debate. Reference has already been made to the men and women of our submarine service who have been part of Operation Relentless over the past 50 years, and I add my tribute to them. The Secretary of State rightly mentioned a group who are not remembered very often: the families of those servicemen and women, who make a great contribution in their own way to our defence. I will not name all the sites because most of them, including Barrow, have been mentioned already. I pay tribute to the industry and the men and women who work in it, not only in the supply chain but directly in maintaining our nuclear deterrent. The issues relating to our nuclear deterrent are rightly secret and do not get a great deal of attention. Today is an opportunity to say, “Thank you”, to those individuals. I accept that a level of secrecy is needed, but for anyone who wants a good tribute to that, I recommend James Jinks’s and Peter Hennessy’s book “The Silent Deep”, which gives a fascinating insight into not only the history of our nuclear deterrent but the present-day operations.
I have always had the utmost respect for those who hold the view that Britain should not have nuclear weapons. I disagree with them, but I respect their position. What I cannot respect is the dishonest and unprincipled position of SNP Members, who argue that Britain should give up its nuclear weapons but at the same time want us to be part of a nuclear alliance—NATO. They accept that they would hide under the umbrella of NATO, but they say they have a principled objection to nuclear weapons. They cannot have both.
The post-war Attlee Government decided that Britain would become a nuclear power because they saw the rise of the threat from the Soviet Union to the post-war order that they and the west were trying to put together. It was a rules-based system, and we rightly pay tribute to the founders of NATO and other international organisations after the second world war. People such as Attlee, who lived through the second war but also saw action at Gallipoli during the first world war, were determined that this country, in the new nuclear age, would not be vulnerable to harm from those who threatened its security. That has always been a long tradition in my party. I know that recently there has been much veneration on the left of the 1945 Labour Government, but that part of the story is always conveniently airbrushed out. The formation of NATO and the beginning of our nuclear deterrent set the course of our security and has dictated it over subsequent generations. Some of the principles that were underlined then, such as mutual destruction and deterrence, have been borne out by the fact that we have not had a nuclear conflict throughout the subsequent period.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon) outlined the nature of the threats that face us today. Are they different to 1945? Yes, they are. Certainly the technology is very different, but so are the threats. At the end of the cold war, there was the possibility of making more reductions in nuclear weapons, but that has been snatched away from us by the current state of the Russian Government, who clearly do not respect the international rules-based order that our forefathers in post-war Britain helped to develop. The Russian Government wish to have their own order, which does not respect international law or nation states. Clearly, they also do not accept that nations should be able to live peacefully alongside one another.
I am clear about the need to retain our nuclear deterrent. It keeps us safe. If we could uninvent nuclear weapons tomorrow, I think most people would, but as a nation we have a proud record—and we should not forget this—of commitment to disarmament. The Secretary of State pointed out the steps that we have already taken, unilaterally, to reduce stockpiles to the minimum that is required, for example removing the WE177 nuclear bomb. It is also right for us to take an active part in moves to stop nuclear proliferation and to achieve arms reduction. That is not easy in the present climate, as my hon. Friend outlined, but that does not mean that we should not try. That has to be part of our overall policy. While maintaining CASD and our nuclear deterrent, we should have a strong commitment to a nuclear-free world. We can work harder at that, although it will not be easy, given the present state of the world, which looks a lot darker than it has for many years.
One threat that I do see to CASD—the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) and I are at one on this—is the decision in 2010 to delay the replacement of the nuclear deterrent. That has had huge issues for the maintenance of CASD. It means that the life of our present Vanguard submarines will be extended way beyond what was designed. I pay tribute to the industry and others who are trying to do the refits, but I ask the Secretary of State to ensure that the Treasury realises that those refits, and the money available for them, are vital. We will not meet the deadlines for the Dreadnought coming on stream, but if we are not to put CASD at risk it is important that the money is made available. I accept that recently some money has come forward, but it has to be available continually over the next few years. I have no wish to be disrespectful to the Secretary of State, but in the words of Robin Day, he is—like us all—a “here today, gone tomorrow” politician. It is important to have consistency in that investment for the life extension and for Dreadnought.
It is also important not to have a repeat of what happened with the Astute submarines, when we turned off the supply tap and the skills base, later having to work to play catch-up, which led to the problems we have now. We need to think about putting investment in now, certainly on the design side, for the generation that comes after Astute or Dreadnought, for example. That is how we keep the capability, because such skills are fragile if we do not invest in them.
To finish where I started, I pay tribute to all those involved in this endeavour. It is a complex one, ensuring not just that we have CASD but that the enterprise works. That it has done so over 50 years is a remarkable feat.
I know that, for example, my colleague the Defence Procurement Minister has had several discussions with the constituency MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). Although of course this is very much a matter for the company, the MOD will look to see in what ways we can provide support.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. May I take this opportunity to thank him once again for the valuable contribution he made through his report last year? He made, off the top of my head, some 41 sensible recommendations, and we are looking to address them shortly.
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, 90% of our industrial collaboration with other European countries on defence is actually on a bilateral basis, not through the European Union. I imagine that that pattern will go long into the future. When we look at the defence of Europe, is it based on the European Union or on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? I would argue it is based on the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, not the European Union.
The hon. Gentleman tempts me to do so, but it is fair to say that our investment in submarines is currently vast, involving both the Astute and Dreadnought programmes. We want to think about innovation, and how we can best tap into the skills that are held by BAE Systems and the people of Barrow to develop the platforms that will succeed Astute, and we hope to be able to update the hon. Gentleman and the House on how we expect to do that in the not too distant future.
I thank my hon. Friend for his review on promoting prosperity through defence. Investment in capabilities, whether it involves ships, jets or land vehicles, is a real driver in the creation of jobs and investment, and the MOD is one of the largest departmental investors in science. We want to think about how we can leverage that more and more. We have seen some fantastic orders over the last year, including a £5 billion order from Qatar and a £20 billion order from Australia for a new frigate. Another great success has been the potential for a large order from the Canadians. However, we will continue to ensure prosperity is at the very heart of everything that we do. Some of the best examples of what British products can achieve is demonstrated through what our armed forces do with them.
I remember that in one of the first questions I was asked as Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Gentleman demanded a combat air strategy and called for this type of investment and leadership, but when we actually deliver it, he starts saying that we need to be looking to others. We can lead: we have always led in this field, and we have the world’s greatest technology. To show such leaderships means that other nations will come and be part of the project, and that is part of the dialogue we are having.
Had we not taken the decision to do this, as we have done, we would have been putting in jeopardy many tens of thousands of jobs not just in the north-west, but right across the country. That is why we have to make this investment and why we have to show world leadership. We must continue to invest in the technology, the science and the skills in order to keep that world leadership role and to continue to benefit from the exports and the wealth that this industry creates.
Indeed—at least that amount.
Reports by Oxford Economics highlight that the UK defence industry has an output multiplier of 2.3, meaning that £100 million in UK industry generates some £230 million to the UK economy. Its reports also highlight that each additional job created in the manufacturing element of the defence industry results in a further 1.8 jobs being created in the wider economy.
At present, the Government do not routinely factor in these wider socioeconomic values when making a procurement decision. We on the Labour Benches believe that to be a serious mistake. It is particularly anomalous when companies that bid with the Ministry of Defence are quite used to having to set out the socioeconomic value of contracts when bidding with Governments of other countries. Labour is committed to expanding the definition of good value to include wider employment, industrial or economic factors when making procurement decisions.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and I congratulate him on his excellent report, which he presented on Monday. I note that in it he recommends that UK prosperity should be taken into account in all major procurement decisions. I welcome that statement.
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I would like to move on, so I am going to make some progress and perhaps invite the Minister responsible for procurement, who will be concluding the debate, to go into the detail of the bid. If Labour is taking a position of only taking British offers and not looking abroad, it is not taking taxpayer value for money into consideration.
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In line with the Government’s industrial strategy, the Department is committed to supporting UK prosperity through the contribution it makes to our stability and security, and through growing the economic value generated by defence activities. My hon. Friend has today published an independent report, with recommendations to enhance the contribution defence makes to UK prosperity. I would like to thank him for his work, which we will be considering very closely.
Leaving the European Union presents this country with one of its greatest opportunities in a generation, and we must use every opportunity we have to leverage prosperity for the United Kingdom. Let us not forget that for every single pound spent on defence, £4 is generated in our economy, so investing in defence is investing in Britain’s prosperity.
2. What steps he is taking to mitigate the effect of the extended timetable for construction of Type 26 frigates on maintaining skills in the defence industry. (905474)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O'Hara) pointed out, the pound is in freefall and every cent it falls against the dollar makes purchasing either the maritime patrol aircraft or the F-35 more expensive. The workers at the Clyde yards have already seen apprenticeship numbers cut by 80%, and the current crisis makes the situation worse. Can the Minister assure me and those on the shop floor in Govan and Scotstoun that the Type 26 programme will begin as soon as possible and not in 2019, as some have suggested?
The Minister will remember that previous shipbuilding projects, in particular the carriers and the Type 45 destroyers, ended up being much more expensive because of delays. Does he accept that BAE Systems is ready to start cutting steel on the Type 26 programme relatively soon and that delays will cause our total number of warships to dip and the ones we eventually get to be more expensive?
The Clyde was promised a world-class frigate factory to build 13 new frigates for the UK. However, today we hear that work has been delayed by a year. Thousands of members of staff are on secondment around the country because there is not enough work in the shipyards, and the word “betrayal” rings around those shipyards because no factory has appeared and no work has started.
We have asked in the past for plans for the frigate-building programme, and for promises that all work will be carried out on the Clyde, but those questions have gone unanswered—[Interruption.]
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Thank you very much. A brief response from the Minister and we will move on.
3. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on progress in the campaign against Daesh. (905475)
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7. What estimate he has made of the projected increase in defence spending during this Parliament. (905479)
Given the vote last week, does the Minister agree that Britain should remain a key player on the international stage? Will Britain continue to use its influence to encourage our NATO allies to spend 2% of their GDP on defence?
With the increasing budget comes increasing responsibility for ensuring value for money for taxpayers. Has my hon. Friend learned the lessons of failed procurement under Labour of maritime patrol aircraft, which had to be cancelled because the programme was 10 years behind and £800 million over budget?
Part of making sure defence spending is adequate is making sure that we get value for money. The Public Accounts Committee was very disturbed when we looked recently at housing management for service families, which seems to be woeful. The contractor, Carillion, has not stepped up to the job. Will the Minister tell me how he will ensure that we get value for money and, more importantly, a better service for our service families?
Where the defence budget is spent is absolutely crucial. Given the gross uncertainty for the British steel industry as a result of the EU referendum vote, what assurances on defence spending can the Minister give to steel manufacturers in this country to boost them at this crucial time?
I warmly welcome the Government’s commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence, but will my hon. Friend confirm that this year and next there will be no increase in cash terms, and assure me that we will not find ourselves in the same situation as we did this year, where in order to meet our 2% commitment money was transferred to the Ministry of Defence from other Departments?
There has been much loose talk about the increase in the defence budget, but to be able to hit the target of 2% of GDP we now have to be very careful, as there may well be a recession given the Brexit vote. Will the Minister reassure the House, the public and the armed forces that the Government’s commitment on defence spending will be maintained not just in terms of GDP but in cash terms?
8. What progress has been made on his Department’s naval procurement plans. (905480)
Can the Minister confirm press reports today that leaked correspondence shows that the Ministry of Defence is looking for savings of £500 million in the Type 26 programme, and has refused an offer from BAE Systems that would bring savings of £270 million while starting the programme on time?
After last week’s vote, these are uncertain times for UK manufacturing. One thing that the Government could do now to boost manufacturing and protect British jobs and skills would be to make a decision on Successor and bring it forward. Will the Minister say when that vote will be?
9. What discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on preparations for the NATO Warsaw summit. (905481)
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13. What steps he is taking to increase the proportion of defence spending that goes to small firms. (905485)
What steps is my hon. Friend taking to make it as simple as possible for small firms to benefit from this increased spend?
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I should maybe come to questions more often.
A former First Sea Lord told the Defence Committee that the delay in the Type 26 frigate programme was due to money problems in the Ministry of Defence budget. Will the Minister tell the House, and more importantly tell the workers on the Clyde, how many jobs will be lost and what the impact will be on its world-class apprenticeship programme?
15. Whether the Government plan to publish a policy on the use of drones for targeted killing. (905487)
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T5. Following the questioning of Ministry of Defence officials at the Public Accounts Committee on infantry management, will the Minister tell us about the current state of the logistics commodities and services’ transformation programme? Is the super shed built, and how confident are the Government that the privatisation of logistics to support our armed services will not result in equipment shortages on the ground? (905502)
T7. Will the Department update the House on the progress being made in increasing the number of cadet units in state schools so that more young people can benefit from the skills and experiences of those cadet units? (905504)
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What percentage of the P-8 contracts will be offset to British companies and what maintenance work will take place in the UK? Will the Minister confirm that the sonobuoys and missiles will be procured from British companies?
Will my hon. Friend assure us that, despite Airbus trying to bully its employees to vote remain in the referendum last week, the wings of the magnificent A400 aircraft will still be made in Filton?
Depressingly, UNICEF reported that 25 children were killed by airstrikes in Syria yesterday. Will the Secretary of State tell us what conversations he is having with our international partners to make sure that we take every necessary step to defend civilians?
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Exactly what actions are the Government taking to protest about the use of phosphorous bombs and barrel bombs against the people of Aleppo?
I was grateful for the Minister’s earlier answer on the cadet expansion programme. Will he tell us at what point, if at all, expressions of interest from schools in non-priority areas will be accepted if insufficient applications are made from priority areas?
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on reports of new evidence that UK-manufactured cluster bombs may have killed and injured civilians, including children, in the conflict in Yemen.
Amnesty International yesterday sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for an urgent investigation into the scandal of UK-supplied BL-755 cluster bombs being used in villages in northern Yemen. Amnesty stated:
“During recent field research in Sa’da, Hajjah, and Sanaa governorates near the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border, Amnesty found a partially-exploded UK-manufactured “BL-755” cluster bomb, as well as other evidence of US and Brazilian cluster munitions which had been used by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces.”
I note the Minister’s remarks, but the discovery of the cluster bomb—originally manufactured in the UK in the 1970s—is clear evidence that, as has long been suspected, members of the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition have used British cluster munitions in their highly controversial attacks in Yemen.
The European Parliament voted in February by a large majority for an EU-wide ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, citing the “disastrous humanitarian situation” as a result of the
“Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen”.
Further to this, under a 2008 code of conduct, EU member states promised not to sell weapons to countries where they might be used to
“commit serious violations of international humanitarian law and to undermine regional peace, security and stability”.
With that in mind, will the UK Government now finally suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and properly investigate the issues raised by Amnesty International? Will the Secretary of State now confirm that the Government will keep their commitment to the EU not to export in these tragic circumstances? Finally, will he now apologise to the House for this Government’s continued inaction on this vital matter, given that the continued use of British bombs has resulted in the deaths of Yemeni men, women and children?
I am the Government’s special envoy to Yemen and have been there many times over a period of 30 years. I have more recently been to Saudi Arabia, where the Yemeni Government are based. I have also been to the operational targeting headquarters of the Saudi-led coalition and have seen for myself the high professional standards being set by that operation. Notwithstanding the passion of the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), which I think it is fair to say is driven much more by non-governmental organisation briefing than by any kind of personal experience—
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It is not at all insulting to suggest that experience of the country matters. I make a plea to the hon. Lady: would it not be wise for the House to appreciate that the current cessation of hostilities and the peace talks in Kuwait are in an absolutely critical phase? The future of the country entirely depends on the talks, so it would also be wise not to inflame any kind of opinion that could jeopardise those talks, empowering those who would rather them fail than succeed.
We have all read the reports from Yemen in recent days of cluster bombs in such volumes in civilian areas that they are hanging off the trees, and of young children herding goats and picking up the bombs, thinking they are toys, with all-too-familiar results. Anyone who read those reports will be asking questions today and will be rightly concerned about the Minister’s lack of answers.
We need to know whether the Saudi military has used British planes to drop cluster bombs. What is the extent of British involvement in the conflict, and what precisely is it designed to achieve? Today’s Los Angeles Times reports a US State Department official as having said that the United States has reminded Saudi Arabia of its obligations regarding the use of cluster bombs and encouraged it
“to do its utmost to avoid civilian casualties”.
Will the Minister confirm whether he has also raised such concerns with his Saudi counterparts? What response has he received? In the face of all the mounting evidence, we have the absurd spectacle of the Saudi spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, insisting that the coalition is not using cluster bombs. Does the Minister believe the brigadier general? If not, what is he going to do about it, and when?
The Secretary of State and Ministers will be aware of the inquiry being held by the Committees on Arms Export Controls, on the conflict in Yemen. Will the Minister commit to submitting further evidence, not least evidence on cluster bombs and evidence from Saudi Arabia, to the Committees as soon as it becomes available?
This Government have truly got their head stuck in the sand. Yemen faces one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, yet through their continuing sale of arms to Saudi Arabia the UK Government are exacerbating the plight of the Yemeni people. The Scottish National party’s alternative Queen’s Speech called for a regulation of weapons trading Bill, which would seek to regulate the arms treaties that the UK Government might sign. That is the right and transparent approach to such deals, which the UK Government must follow. Does the Minister agree that it is a disgrace that since this Prime Minister took office in 2010 the UK Government have licensed £6.7 billion of arms to Saudi Arabia, including £2.8 billion since the bombing of Yemen began in March last year? Is our arms trade with Saudi Arabia worth so much more than the thousands of men, women and children involved in and dying in this terrible conflict? This Government have questions to answer, with evidence mounting that they have breached international law. When will a full inquiry get under way?
I am sure the Minister would agree that when looking at the Arabian peninsula we sometimes have to be careful what we wish for, as even more conservative forces could replace some of the Governments and some of the organisations there. Without intervention, we would have seen a collapse in Yemen that would have endangered our entire security. Does he agree that this latest incident and the latest allegations show the importance of all nations signing up to the cluster munitions legislation, as the UK already has?
Doubts have been cast on the validity of the evidence produced by Amnesty and others, but I and other hon. Members have seen a series of photographs and evidence that suggest that cluster munitions are being used in Yemen. Amnesty has told us that it was impossible to obtain more information because three of the de-miners were killed in a cluster munitions incident while carrying out their work, which itself suggests that cluster munitions are being used. Will the Minister explain whether he has seen all the evidence from Amnesty? Will he commit to reviewing it independently, and not just relying on Saudi assurances?
Has the Minister had any answers to the series of other serious allegations that have been made not just by Amnesty, but by Oxfam, Médecins sans Frontières, Human Rights Watch and other organisations about attacks on civilians and humanitarian facilities, which the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), admitted he had not had satisfactory answers to when he appeared before the Committees on Arms Export Controls?
May I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting the urgent question to the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh)? This is a very serious matter and I am glad that there will be an investigation of the serious allegations that have been made by Amnesty International.
We are involved in Yemen because we are peacemakers: we want to see peace restored to a country that is bleeding to death because of the involvement of so many countries. Of course, we needed the support of the Saudi Arabians to restore the legitimate Government of President Hadi because of the actions of the Iranians. However, it is important that they now stop and support the ceasefire. These kinds of allegations undermine the work that has been done by the coalition. Will the Minister ensure that the Saudi Arabian ambassador is called to see the Foreign Office Minister so that we can reinforce the message that these kinds of allegations undermine the peace process, which we need to make sure is maintained?
In his earlier reply, the Minister mentioned that we have not supplied munitions for a long time. Will he clarify the date when we last supplied munitions?
The Government are digging a very deep hole for themselves. I have exchanged many letters with Ministers on this subject and have been informed that the UK Government have concluded that the
“Saudi-led Coalition are not targeting civilians”
in Yemen. How can the Government draw that conclusion when the Saudis have stated that whole cities—Sa’dah, where UN Security Council experts identified that hospitals, schools and mosques had been attacked, and Marran—are military targets; when the Saudis are apparently using UK-made cluster munitions; and when 93% of the casualties from air-launched explosives are civilians, according to the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs? Will the Government finally acquire a backbone, accept that Saudi Arabia is in flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until it cleans up its act?
Thanks to a Labour Government, we have the Export Control Act 2002, which provides this country with a robust mechanism for arms exports not just to Saudi Arabia, but to other nations around the world. Will the Minister tell the House what pressure is being put on the Iranians to stop not only exporting weapons to rebels, but using them as a direct threat to Saudi Arabia?
I, too, thank the Minister for his response. Along with the Chair of the Defence Committee, I attended the Committees on Arms Export Controls, where there was a robust exchange of views, as the Minister will recall. The use of British-produced cluster bombs was mentioned in that evidence session, and he has referred to that. In his response to the Committees, the Minister stated that if evidence was produced of British-produced cluster bombs being used, there would be sanctions and the Government would stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia. More evidence has been produced today and I ask the Minister the same thing. Will we take action today to ensure that the exports to Saudi Arabia stop, because the evidence clearly shows the use of British-produced cluster bombs?
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is important to have a detailed investigation of exactly what was dropped and when, because we all know that munitions can come to light many years after conflicts? For example, we are still finding bombs from the second world war in Britain. Does he agree that such an investigation is also important because this is a close ally acting in self-defence of a Government that are entitled to run the country? It is therefore not a straight matter of condemnation.
Britain was right to join other countries in banning cluster bombs. It is clear that, in this matter, Saudi Arabia has questions to answer, and the Minister has mentioned several times the representations the Government have made to the Saudi Arabians. Will he help me by explaining what work he is doing alongside other countries in multilateral institutions to bring the Saudi Arabians into the consensus against cluster bombs?
My hon. Friend mentioned the investigations the Saudi Government have agreed to undertake into strikes in civilian areas. Could he give us a timetable for when he expects to hear the result of those investigations?
It is clear that these munitions are old, but they are falling now, and they are affecting families and others living in Yemen. Does the Minister not agree that the Government have a responsibility—certainly a moral responsibility—to provide training and resources to the services on the ground in Yemen that are trying to de-mine these areas so that people can live in safety without having to fear for their children’s lives?
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Following on from the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North East Hertfordshire (Sir Oliver Heald), will the Minister tell me what happened to the existing UK-manufactured cluster bombs when the UK signed the convention on cluster munitions?
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh) on bringing the Minister to the Dispatch Box to answer this urgent question. The fact that these cluster munitions seem to have been modelled and designed in the 1970s underlines the historical defence relationship between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Over that time, possibly thousands of UK personnel have found themselves advising the Saudi Arabian armed forces or leaving the United Kingdom services to take up a role in the Saudi Arabian armed services. How confident, therefore, are the Government that no UK citizen has been involved in targeting, firing or maintaining these illegal weapons while in the service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia?
Once again, we have Ministers prepared to present the Saudi wolf in a sheepdog’s clothing. Today, we have been given a pub crawl of excusery. We have been told that the weapons were old or that there was no evidence of any cluster munitions having been used by the Saudi-led coalition. Then we were told that there was no evidence they were British manufactured. Then the Minister told us that he was concerned and that he would try to get evidence. Rather than just asking the Saudis what they have done, will the Government contact the Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre, which actually recovered the matériel we are talking about and has it in a de-mining depot, and look at the same evidence that Amnesty International has examined?
If these reports are not enough, under what circumstances would the Government actually suspend sales of arms to Saudi Arabia?
The shocking statistics referred to a few moments ago make it clear that the deaths of civilians in Yemen are not an isolated, unfortunate accident. The Saudis are, at best, being recklessly indiscriminate; at worst, they are deliberately setting out to kill civilians. Does the Minister agree that we should not hide behind the assertion that we cannot prove that British weapons have been used in this act of mass murder? Does he agree that the only way to ensure that they are not used in this way is to call an immediate halt to all arms sales to Saudi Arabia until the allegations have been proven unfounded, rather than to wait for the allegations to be proven correct?
The Minister said that no UK-made planes had dropped UK-made cluster bombs. [Hon. Members: “UK planes.”] Sorry, UK planes. Just to be clear, will he confirm whether UK planes have dropped any cluster bombs at all?
Given the grave concerns raised, will the UK Government now heed the recommendation of the International Development Committee and back the establishment of an independent investigation into alleged breaches of humanitarian law in Yemen?
(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Government’s plans for shipbuilding on the Clyde.
Order. I am most grateful to the Minister for his words, but I gently point out that he took more than twice his allotted time. I felt that he had germane information to impart, so I let it go on this occasion, but I cannot do so on a subsequent occasion; there are rules in this place and they must be observed. In recognition of how long it took the Minister, the hon. Lady now has slightly longer, if she wishes to take it.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I, on behalf of the Opposition, also extend our condolences to the family of Captain David Seath?
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this matter in an urgent question, although I am deeply disappointed that the Minister had to be dragged to the House this afternoon to explain what on earth has been going on with the Government so far. The Secretary of State cannot be seen for dust. After three days of considerable uncertainty over the future of British shipbuilding, during which the Government have remained completely silent, the Secretary of State has, unfortunately, failed to clear the air. This is about a commitment to our Royal Navy and the national defence of the UK.
As a maritime nation, it is bad enough that our Navy has had its surface fleet cut by a sixth since this Government came into office. We have been promised that at least 13 new frigates will be built, but if the timetable for delivering the new frigates has slipped, the Government’s promise to maintain the Navy’s fleet at its current size is put at risk. Can the Minister answer a simple question: will construction begin this year, in line with previous commitments? He claims that the orders for the new frigates will proceed as set out in the SDSR, but it says nothing about the timetable—and the timetable is vital. The unions are now being told that this could be delayed by up to a year. Is he saying that that is not the case? Does he also deny the claims made by unions that the start of Type 26 construction has already been delayed?
The issue is not just about the Type 26 frigates. Over the past two years, the Government have repeatedly promised that all 13 of the Navy’s new frigates would be built on the Clyde—not only the eight Type 26s, but “at least” five lighter frigates announced in the SDSR as well. Can we have confirmation that that is still true today? What about the budget? There are rumours that the next two offshore patrol vessels will now come out of the same budget as the frigates, meaning that the overall budget is almost certain to fall—is that right? Has nothing changed, as the Minister says? If that is right, why has BAE Systems not denied press reports that there will be redundancies at the shipyards? If that is not the case, why are the unions being told that there will be redundancies? This is a matter of national importance for the United Kingdom. The future of hundreds of people in Glasgow hang on the Minister’s words this afternoon. Will he please answer my questions about delay, as this is a very important matter?
The Government say that they are publishing a shipbuilding strategy later this year. We have been waiting 16 months, and we are now told that a chair has been appointed. That is good, but will we get the shipbuilding strategy this year, because, frankly, at the moment, it looks like a shambles? This is not the time for weasel words such as “optimised schedules”. We need clear-cut assurances from the Government that they will honour the commitments that they have made both to local communities and to our national defences. If they do not honour those commitments, this will be yet another Tory betrayal of Scotland, which the SNP will not be able to fix. Only a British Labour Government will be in a position to safeguard the future of Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry.
Since 1997, the total number of frigates and destroyers has declined from 35 to only 19. Does the Minister recognise that the lighter general purpose frigates could offer a great opportunity to reverse that decline in numbers and to create not only more platforms for the Royal Navy, but more work for the shipyards and possibly even export opportunities if the frigate is designed in the right way, which should be modular, adaptable and capable of being upgraded in service, rather than having all the accoutrements put on it from day one?
I am sure that those watching will be disappointed that this urgent question descended so quickly into a Tory-Labour bun fight. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman), whose question exposed the revised timetable. The reply he received confirmed what we have suspected ever since the strategic defence and security review was published last year: that this Government are creating the conditions in which to betray workers on the Clyde once again. Earlier today, Scotland’s First Minister met the unions at BAE Systems, and they expressed their grave concern that the UK Government are set to renege on the promise they made, along with the Labour party, before the independence referendum, that there would be a steady stream of work coming to the yards on the Clyde, guaranteeing employment. Just three years ago, the Prime Minister said:
“Scottish defence jobs are more secure as part of the United Kingdom.”
Given that, can the Minister confirm today that there will be no redundancies at BAE Systems in Glasgow, and will he confirm that the Ministry of Defence will stick to the timeline that has been agreed and set out?
Does my hon. Friend share my concern that the shadow Defence Secretary’s refusal to commit her party to the NATO target of spending a minimum of 2% of GDP on defence is a threat not only to our national security, but to key equipment programmes and investment for the Type 26?
The Secretary of State for Defence has stated in the past that UK warships are only built in UK yards, but what percentage of the total contract value will flow to British companies, and what specific work will be given to the British steel industry from those contracts, with regard to not only the value of the orders in the supply chain, but the swift timetabling for the awarding of contracts, to help the beleaguered British steel industry now?
Does my hon. Friend have any information on when the designation of the GP frigates will be confirmed? Will it be a Type 31, as has been rumoured in the press, and will it, as my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) said, be directed to exports? Will we be building it, or will we get ideas from outside on what the exports should be?
Does the Minister have an estimate of the percentage of work on the frigates that will be carried out in Scotland? Has that changed over the last 18 months, and do the Government have an estimate of how many fewer shipbuilding-related jobs there would be in Scotland if the Scottish National party got its wish to carry out its obsession with taking Scotland out of the United Kingdom?
Order. Some people need to calm down. Mr Blackford, you are an extraordinary individual; you do become very excitable. I prefer your cerebral side. If you feel you can find it before the afternoon is out, the House would be greatly obliged to you. I call Tom Pursglove.
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Thank you, Mr Speaker. Following on from the question from the hon. Member for Hartlepool, has any specific assessment been made of the impact of any delays in the programme, particularly on the British steel industry?
The workforce on the Clyde are highly skilled and motivated men and women, and I really do wish that the focus of the House this afternoon could be on preserving their futures and livelihoods, instead of on other considerations. With that in mind, will the Minister assure me that, between the end of the construction of the offshore patrol vessels and the start of work on the Type 26 frigates, everything will be done to ensure continuity, because it is in our national strategic interest to ensure that the workforce is maintained?
I welcome the news of the new-build ships. We still do not have enough, but we are going in the right direction. May I ask that no HM ships currently serving be withdrawn before and until any new ship is built and commissioned?
When the Prime Minister visited BAE in February last year, he stated that the contract for the Type 26 frigates would secure jobs on the Clyde for the next 30 years. The delays in this contract now threaten the very jobs that the contract should secure. Will he tell the workforce when they should expect to cut steel on the first Type 26?
With quality jobs and apprenticeships being secured at David Brown engineering in Huddersfield, which is producing the gears for the Type 26 frigates, will the Minister assure me that as we move forward with the general purpose frigate programme the northern powerhouse will be a major part of that programme?
Amid the politics, perhaps the House could remember the estimated 800 families for whom, with their livelihoods at risk, this is a very worrying time. Will the Minister confirm that the promised investment in upgrading the shipyards will still go ahead?
Our Type 45 destroyers have world-class capability, but they cost £1 billion each. One of the reasons they cost more and took longer to build than we thought they would is that they kept being redesigned after construction had started, and we now learn that there have been major problems with the power plant. Will the Minister assure the House that these mistakes will be avoided with the Type 26 frigates?
As someone with the privilege of representing the Govan shipyard, may I first tell the Minister that a meeting between an employer and trade unions, with 800 jobs at risk, is not “a routine meeting” by any standard? I hope he will reflect on his earlier remarks. Will the Minister confirm that the original date for cutting steel for the Type 26 was May 2016, and will he explain the reasons for the delay? Finally, what message does the Minister have for the trade unions and the workforce on the Clyde, who view the national shipbuilding strategy with suspicion and as an attempt to reduce the role of shipbuilding on the Clyde? Are the fears of the workforce unfounded, or is that another betrayal that is still to come?
I very much second the comments made about the importance of using UK steel in these products, unlike in many recent Ministry of Defence projects. I want to ask the Minister two very specific questions: will there still be five general purpose frigates, and where will they be built—on the Clyde or elsewhere?
As ever at this time of year, there is much reminiscing over the UK’s defeat of Argentina. Given that that took a taskforce of 42 Royal Navy ships, does the Minister really expect us to believe that a fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers is sufficient for a Navy with the strategic ambitions outlined in the 2015 SDSR?
Shipbuilders on the Clyde are very skilled, as are those on Merseyside, and they share having experienced the threat of redundancy over many years. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s now-delayed shipbuilding strategy, once we have it, will cover the supply chain in all parts of this country, wherever marine engineering skills reside?
I asked in July about the building of Type 26 frigates, when it had been reported that the order process could be fragmented to bring to it what the Government called “realism”. With this uncertainty, exactly what kind of realism are the Government looking to bring? Does the Minister not think that the workforce on the Clyde deserve to hear, specifically and clearly, exactly what work will be available and when?
The 2015 SDSR gave an explicit commitment to the eight Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde. Given that the workers at Govan and Scotstoun also heard that there would be 12 Type 45 destroyers, and then that there would be eight, before finally being given work for six, does the Minister wonder why the Clyde workforce are unsure about MOD promises? On that basis, can he categorically confirm that eight Type 26s will be built there?
The Minister has spoken about the role of steel in the frigates and other key pieces of procurement that the MOD will be undertaking, but I was not particularly comforted by his comments on the role that procurement will play in this case. Can he confirm that local content and local value will play a key role when decisions are made about procuring steel?
The Minister said earlier that he is still confident that the Department’s orders will provide job security for decades to come, but that will be of little benefit to anyone who is made redundant between now and when the Department makes up its mind what it is going to do. May I ask him again the question that he has not so far answered: will he give a commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies on the Clyde as a result of these delays?
There is a growing sense of anger and frustration on the Clyde, and many of those hard-working and highly skilled workers are starting to feel as though they have been used as constitutional pawns. What does the Minister say in response to the secretary of GMB Scotland, who said that the UK Government’s recent actions in the Clyde are
“a total betrayal of the upper Clyde workforce”?
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, has today written to the Prime Minister saying:
“The BAE yards on the Clyde require a cast iron commitment from your government that you will deliver the contract as promised, with the full scale up of the workforce without any risk to employment at the yards.”
Will the Minister recommend that the Government reply positively to that request?
In a debate such as this, language is extremely important. In his response, the Minister has stated that ships would be “assembled”, and, at one point, “constructed”. To clarify and put it beyond doubt, will he tell the House, and those in my constituency who work in the shipyards and those represented by my hon. Friends, that that will include fabrication, and that the process will be in the yards from beginning to end, not somewhere else?
On 4 April 2013, the Prime Minister said that Scottish defence jobs were
“more secure as part of the United Kingdom.”
Does the Minister realise how ridiculous that now sounds?
Order. After a little time to simmer down, I hope that the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) has now acquired the poise, gravitas and serenity to which he should aspire.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, but perhaps, like the workers on the Clyde, we on the Scottish National party Benches are beginning gently to simmer. I reflect on the Minister’s words: he said that the demonstration phase is now going to continue to June 2017. Is the cat not now out of the bag—he is putting back the construction process? Why does he not give a guarantee to the workforce that their jobs are safe? We can all now reflect on what Better Together meant—duping the people of Scotland once again.
4. What estimate he has made of the likely change in the level of defence spending over the course of this Parliament. (904480)
I welcome this increased budget. If we were to adopt the position advocated by some and not spend 2%, what would the impact be on the morale of our troops, their equipment and our security?
19. But the Minister cannot pull the wool over our eyes on this one, because we all know that defence spending was set to fall below 2% of GDP, but for the Government including things that had never been included in the NATO analysis before, such as war pensions and the pension contributions of MOD civilian staff. Will he now come clean? Will he have to resort to these sorts of accounting gimmicks to be able to assure NATO that in future we will maintain 2% spending? (904497)
18. The Government’s defence review set out a £178 billion programme of investment in equipment for our armed forces over the next decade. Will the Minister ignore calls from the other parties to cut defence spending, which would mean smaller, weaker armed forces and the loss of highly skilled jobs in the defence sector? (904496)
Despite the claims by the Minister’s Department, the reality is that, between 2010 and 2015, the Royal Navy has had a 33% decline in carriers and amphibious ships, a 17% decline in submarines and a 17% decline in destroyers and frigates. We are a maritime nation, and yet our Navy is declining. Is it not time that we placed greater investment in our maritime capabilities?
I proposed a private Member’s Bill last year requiring the Government to enshrine in law that we spend at least 2% of GDP on defence. May I welcome today’s announcement and hope that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) is wrong and that this really does represent new money? May I also take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on the important work that he has done, under the lead of the Prime Minister, in promoting defence exports, and to welcome the 24 Typhoons that have been sold to Kuwait and hope that that will contribute to the Ministry of Defence’s budget?
What defence spending can the Minister guarantee for the steel industry given that the procurement rules allow for community benefit?
Government Members appear to be insinuating that the Labour party is advocating a reduction in defence spending, which is entirely untrue. It is perhaps unfortunate that the hon. Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher) talked about the impact that defence cuts have on the morale of our armed forces, because I have here a letter from the Secretary of State confirming that the MOD agreed to make £500 million of in-year savings after the Budget this year. The Government, of which this Minister is a part, has overseen a 17% cut in those Royal Navy warships and now, for the first time since 1982, have left the Falklands without a Royal Navy frigate protecting it. Can he clarify the record that we have a Government who are cutting defence spending—massively in recent years—and leaving the nation less protected as a result of it?
5. What assessment he has made of the progress of the international campaign to defeat ISIS/Daesh. (904481)
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8. What assessment he has made of the effects on the UK’s (a) economy and (b) security of building four Successor ballistic missile submarines. (904484)
With Russia openly menacing our allies, and with us on the cusp of the centenary of the greatest sacrifices ever made by our armed forces in defending this country, would it not be foolish and totally inappropriate for us no longer to be prepared to make a relatively small financial sacrifice to maintain the only asset that can guarantee the freedom of this country?
The Minister and, indeed, the Secretary of State have referred to the long-held and well-known views of the Leader of the Opposition on this issue, but it is the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister who will put the resolution to the House. Given that there is overwhelming support for the renewal from the Ministry of Defence, the forces, industry, the workforce and the majority of this House, will the Minister get the message through to dithering Dave in No. 10 to stop playing party politics with this issue of national security and to put the vote to this House?
Two weeks ago I had the great privilege of visiting Rolls-Royce up the road in Bristol, where I met apprentices and workers at the defence aerospace operations and turbine manufacturing facility. I witnessed the important work that Rolls-Royce is doing around the country on manufacturing nuclear engines for servicing naval vessels. Does the Minister agree that Trident stands to benefit the economy by virtue of the many jobs it will create?
9. What steps he is taking to protect the armed forces from persistent legal claims. (904485)
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12. What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in other NATO countries on spending 2% of GDP on defence. (904488)
What signal would it send to our NATO partners, and to our adversaries, ahead of the Warsaw summit if the Government took the advice of some in the House and failed to commit to spending 2% of GDP on defence? Will my hon. Friend update the House on the Libya and wider middle east situation?
The Minister and many other hon. Members make much of this 2%, but 2% in the United Kingdom is quite different from a measurement of 2% for other NATO allies. Does the Minister not agree that this process of self-assessment, which NATO seems to tick off, has profound implications for the alliance’s method of calculation of GDP expenditure on the military?
13. What steps his Department is taking to support British jobs and industry through its procurement process. (904490)
Will the Minister tell the House just how much his Department has saved by buying cheap steel from Sweden? Does he think that that in any way offsets the devastating impact on our steel industry?
Can the Minister confirm that the United Kingdom works very closely with countries such as Pakistan on defence procurement? Will he join me in welcoming the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, who is sitting at the top of the Public Gallery?
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T3. Does my hon. Friend agree that Kuwait’s decision to buy 28 world-beating Typhoons is testament to the skill of the BAE workforce at Warton, many of whom live in my constituency, and this Government’s commitment to defence exports? (904504)
T5. Following the Foreign Secretary’s statement that we“stand ready to provide further assistance to Libya and its people”,will the Secretary of State confirm what kind of assistance the UK would be willing to provide and how much notice this House would have before a vote on military action in Libya? (904506)
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T6. Will the Minister say a little more about what progress is being made to ensure that a very high percentage of UK steel is used in defence procurement? In particular, will he say what steps he has taken to ensure that there is the capacity and capability for UK steel to be used to build any Successor Trident submarines, should the House determine that that is what it wishes to happen? (904508)
T7. Is the Secretary of State aware that the standard of food for the military at HMS Sultan and similar naval establishments has become such a source of complaints that service personnel have been banned from taking photographs and using social media to critique it? What is he doing to ensure that our servicemen and women are properly looked after in such a basic area as food? (904509)
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Hawk aircraft are built at Brough and flown by the Red Arrows, promoting the very best of British. Are there plans to procure new planes for the Red Arrows?
T9. One hundred years ago, Porton Down was established as a centre to deal with nerve gas attacks during the Somme; 100 years later, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory continues to do a fantastic job, now tackling the growing threats we face in this country from Daesh. Following the visit by the Secretary of State and other Ministers, what reflections do they have on the continuing role of DSTL at Porton Down in my constituency? (904511)
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With both the existing Trident programme and the potential Successor programme in mind, will the Minister tell me what measures his Department is taking to identify unexploded ordnance in the River Clyde?
Tata Steel developed three new types of steel to build the Queen Elizabeth class of aircraft carrier. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that British steel manufacturers continue to innovate with as well as deliver for the Royal Navy?
The Army Reserve centre in Cobridge in my constituency is home to the A detachment 202 (M) field hospital. I have been in correspondence with the Minister but have yet to receive a response to rumours about its imminent closure, something that is yet to be confirmed or consulted about with the wider community. May I have a response from the Minister?
Given that Ministry of Defence procurement operates under European law, what assessment has the Minister made of a potential exit from the European Union on UK SMEs that rely on MOD contracts?
16. What steps his Department is taking to support British jobs and industry through its procurement process. (903771)
That sounded good, and I am glad that the Department has such an objective, but the manufacturing industry in my constituency tells me that the Government have taken far too little action in favour of manufacturing, not least on business rates. In pursuit of those objectives, will the Minister tell me when he last spoke to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills about refreshing and improving its industrial strategy?
I am genuinely interested in the Minister’s approach. I would like him to explain to the House why, for example, 60% of the steel for the new Royal Navy offshore patrol boats is being procured from Sweden, when in my part of the world, Wales, we have a real crisis on our hands with the steel industry.
On Friday, I visited BAE Systems at Samlesbury, where I saw not only the skills that help it to manufacture parts for the Typhoon and the joint strike fighter, but the results of the millions of pounds it is investing in the training academy for 112 apprentices, which will open later this year, and in 3D printing, which means that it will be able to make parts and prototypes both in plastic and in metals. Does the Minister agree that such investments will help to keep BAE Systems at the forefront of its field in the world?
Given that Ministry of Defence procurement operates under European law, what assessment has the Minister made of a potential exit from the European Union on UK SMEs that rely on MOD contracts?
On procurement, I hope that the remarks about Europe made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) also apply in relation to our overseas territories. During the last recess, I had the chance to visit our servicemen and women in the Falklands. Will the Minister join me in paying tribute to the 1,200 personnel there? Will he confirm that this Government will work closely with the Falkland Islands Government to improve the accommodation there and will procure such improvements through British providers?
18. There are more than 15,000 high-skill, high-value jobs in the defence sector in the north-west alone, with earnings that are more than 40% higher than the national average. We have heard previously about the lack of a proper industrial strategy for defence with respect to steel, so when will the Government look at the wider economic benefits when it comes to protecting those high-skill, high-value jobs and to creating new ones in the context of defence procurement? (903773)
Perhaps the Minister should listen to the questions, stop throwing out allegations of grandstanding and take the issue of the steel industry in this country seriously. The chronic under-investment in steel in this country by this Government is nothing less than a national disgrace. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Mr Hanson) said, 60% of the steel required for the Royal Navy’s offshore patrol vessels has been sourced from Sweden, to name but one example. Does the Minister not agree that the MOD should consider wider employment, industrial and economic factors in its procurement policy? Its policy is obviously not working given that, as he has said, such a low level, in truth, comes from British companies.
The exchanges today are, to put it mildly, a tad long-winded. There are a lot of questions to get through. What is required is a pithy question and a pithy answer. It is not very difficult.
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T5. Can the Minister confirm that the last Government looked at all the alternatives to our continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent, and that none offered the protection that we need? Does he agree with the two former Labour Defence Secretaries who have said that it is “self-evident that a British nuclear deterrent will be essential to our security for decades to come”? (903799)
T2. What role does the Secretary of State see the Russian bombing of targets and civilians in Syria playing in driving the refugee crisis to the shores of Europe? (903796)
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T3. The strategic defence and security review supposedly included £12 billion of additional expenditure on equipment, but with £16 billion extra allocated for nuclear submarines, massive cuts have been made elsewhere to support that. A written answer referred me to the defence equipment plan, but it has insufficient detail on the changes, so will the Minister commit to providing further clarity on the changes within the 2015 SDSR? (903797)
In December 2014, the Secretary of State told this House that the legal aid wrongly claimed by Leigh Day and co—because of inadequate disclosure—should be reimbursed. Is it still his view that it will be reimbursed in full? Given the timescales that have passed so far, when does he think the money will be received?
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T6. Germany and Sweden have stopped selling weapons to Saudi Arabia as a result of concerns over Saudi actions in Yemen. Will the Government do likewise and impose a ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia? (903800)
I recently visited the Royal Marines on Arctic warfare training in northern Norway with my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster) and the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth). Will my hon. Friend join me in applauding 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and 45 Commando, which are known as some of the most elite commando forces in the world, and explain how the strategic defence and security review will support the Royal Marines?
T7. Under this Prime Minister, the number of RAF police personnel has dropped 340, from 1,480 to 1,140. Royal Military Police numbers have dropped 80, from 1,700 to 1,620, and Royal Navy Police numbers have dropped 40, from 340 to 300. Does the Secretary of State think that those cuts are acceptable? (903801)
5. What assessment he has made of the effect on UK security and the economy of building four Successor ballistic missile submarines for the nuclear deterrent; and if he will make a statement. (903053)
Thirty thousand jobs! I thank my hon. Friend for his answer. Notwithstanding proposals for nuclear missile boats or submarines without nuclear missiles, does he not accept that there are something like 17,000 nuclear warheads around the world, with some possibly threatening us? What is my hon. Friend’s assessment of the likely risk to national security should we not proceed with the four missile submarines?
Does the Minister agree that the issue is about not just the number of jobs involved in the Successor programme, but the high-skill nature of those jobs? Despite ill-informed comments from my own party at the weekend with regard to those jobs, does he also agree that we cannot simply turn them on and off like a tap when we need them?
19. In the light of the astonishing comments made yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition on having a submarine-based nuclear deterrent without actually have any deterrent involved, does my hon. Friend agree that in an increasingly uncertain world it is crucial to continue the decades-long consensus held on our nuclear deterrent? (903068)
The replacement of the nuclear deterrent is, of course, a sovereign decision of the United Kingdom and its Parliament. However, deciding not to proceed would have repercussions across NATO. Will the Minister tell us what he feels the repercussions would be for NATO, and for Britain’s standing in NATO, should we decide not to go to maingate?
Does the Minister agree that all NATO countries are part of the NATO nuclear alliance, which is based on the three members who are in possession of weapons; and that to spend all the money on a nuclear deterrent, but not actually have one at the end, would be the worst option of all?
In what circumstances does the Minister intend to use the nuclear deterrent?
6. What support the armed forces provided for the response to recent flooding (a) in Lancashire and (b) elsewhere. (903054)
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14. What discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the cost, operational capacity and reliability of the F-35 programme. (903063)
I thank the Minister for his response. Will he reassure the House that he will not bring the current fleet of Tornado aircraft out of service until the F-35 has proven its operational reliability after several years of active service?
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (903039)
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T2. I am sure the Minister will know that this year we are proud to mark the centenary of the Porton Down defence laboratory in my constituency. May I invite him to commend the work of Jonathan Lyle and his team, and to speculate on the challenges they may face in the next 100 years? (903040)
T6. The Brimstone missiles currently being dropped in Syria are estimated to cost in the region of £150,000 each. Given such a massive financial commitment, will the Minister assure the House that the costs of this campaign are being monitored and that a similar financial contribution will be made towards rebuilding Syria? (903045)
T3. Cadet units across the country are keen to engage in target rifle shooting, and yet the rules surrounding transportation of rifles and ammunition make such participation all but impossible for schools and cadet units. Will the Secretary of State meet me and representatives of the National Rifle Association to discuss how we can get around those very difficult rules in a practical and safe manner? (903042)
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Dalzell plate mill, Clydebridge quenching mill, the heavy sections at Scunthorpe and also Sheffield Forgemasters—the Secretary of State rightly said that the Government’s position is to maintain an independent nuclear deterrent, but will it be using British steel?
Last Thursday I had the great pleasure of accompanying my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement when he visited the UK Defence Solutions Centre at Farnborough in my constituency. May I salute this innovation by my hon. Friend? The centre is doing fantastic work in assessing Britain’s defence needs as well as new technological opportunities, and in that context, will he give serious thought to continuing the Ministry of Defence’s support for Zephyr, the high-altitude record holder, which has fantastic surveillance capability, the technology for which my great and late friend Chris Kelleher did so much to develop?
The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) can now draw breath.
How much do the Government currently estimate the replacement nuclear deterrent weapons system will cost, including the boats themselves, the missiles and the ongoing lifetime maintenance costs?
I agree. If we allocated the defence budget on the basis of value for money, I am sure companies in Northern Ireland would get an enhanced share. However, if we create a system where public money is allocated on the basis of something other than value for money, we open the door—the revolving door—to lobbying and all sorts of nefarious influences. Not only is that bad in itself, but it has negative consequences in terms of giving us value for money as part of what will, by definition, always be a finite budget.
Those in the defence establishment will claim that providing Britain’s defence protection base is a strategic industry, and of course our defence industry is a strategic industry. However, they seek to justify giving privileged contractors the privileges they get on the grounds that that maintains our defence industry and that it is critical to our national security. However, let us assess that argument a little further.
The idea that Britain is self-sufficient in defence production is a myth. We need to import defence equipment and materiel. We did so throughout the last century, and it is thanks to our ability to do so that we won wars we would not have otherwise won. In fact, during the Napoleonic wars, we imported materiel and equipment from overseas through Harwich, near my constituency, to ensure that we prevailed in that struggle. Not for centuries have we been entirely dependent for our defence on equipment produced exclusively on this island, and it would be naive to assume we ever could be.
Today, British defence manufacturers cannot produce equipment without international support. There are few systems anywhere—from mobile phones to jets to missiles—that can be built and manufactured without some sort of international trade. I would say that that is a good thing. International dependence and complex international supply chains are a good thing; apart from anything else, they help to keep the peace and to enhance international co-operation. However, many supposedly British procurement options, which are sold to politicians, civil servants and Ministers as the most British option, actually mean we end up being ever more dependent on other Governments.
Let us take the example of the RAF’s new transport plane—the Airbus A400M. It is partly manufactured in the UK, and a very good thing that is too—I do not denigrate that at all. But it has a shorter range, a lower top speed and a smaller payload than the comparable Boeing C-17 Globemaster, and it is considerably more expensive to boot. However, here is the really shocking thing: if we bought the C-17, we would need the support, compliance and good will of only one Government—the United States Government. But the A400M option requires the compliance and support of the Governments of France, Spain, Belgium, Germany and Turkey, as well as that of the United States. The supply chain is even more interdependent. Far from giving us so-called sovereignty of supply, the A400M is an example of procurement that is protectionist and, at the same time, makes us more dependent and less operationally sovereign.
Defence protectionism has also created a contractor cartel. In an attempt to prop up the defence industry, successive Governments have promoted the supply side and consolidated it. That has created what economists call—this is a rather clumsy term—a monsopoly, which is a monopoly of supply. That means that a limited number of suppliers, not the state, control the terms of trade. Britain is paying over the odds because a tiny group of producers sets the terms of trade.
Big business is not the only vested interest that distorts procurement, either. Perhaps inevitably there is inter-service rivalry, so that projects serve the interests of different sectors rather than the defence interest overall. We have unenforceable anti-lobbying rules, which mean that former defence personnel can pursue what I would regard as inappropriate contacts on behalf of clients, without censure. Protectionist policy and those various crony corporate vested interests are undermining our national security. They are preventing our nation state from being able to turn whatever fiscal power we have into military muscle. We are simply being less efficient than we ought to be. We need a procurement policy that puts the national interest first and allows us to convert the fiscal power that we have into the maximum possible military muscle.
A few weeks ago, the UK Independence party parliamentary resource unit published an excellent paper called “Rethinking Defence Procurement”, in which we set out some ideas and suggestions—I think they are rather sensible, soft suggestions—on what we can do to get things right. First we suggest that the default—though not the exclusive—approach should be to buy a weapons system off the shelf. I grant that there are some weapons systems that we need to make in-house; we need that capability. However, if we want the best value equipment possible we need to be prepared to buy off the shelf.
It would be perfectly possible for us as a nation state to build smartphones that would be manufactured exclusively in the United Kingdom. Probably, they would be the size of a brick, there would be a waiting list for them and they would run on clockwork. It makes much more sense for us to buy smartphones that are the result of international co-operation, with chips built in South Korea, design from California and software from India. International co-operation enables us to have smartphones with a higher level of technology for less cost every year. We should apply a similar principle to defence procurement. We might think of off-the-shelf procurement as being almost like urgent operational requirements—which I know the military rather like. In other words, the military can buy what it wants, from whom it wants. We can think of it as an urgent operational requirement, but without the guddle and the rush.
Secondly, we need to start consolidating not the supply side but the demand side. By working with our allies we could initiate joint procurement projects. That is not a case of our building and manufacturing things jointly; that would be a supply solution. Rather it would be a matter of putting in procurement bids collectively with our allies, ensuring that in many areas we would have a buyers’ market, where the buyers collectively could set the terms of trade. We could do that with a number of countries—not just European countries and NATO members but countries such as Australia and India. If they and we needed a weapons system, why not put in joint procurement bids with our Anglosphere allies? That would drive down prices and ensure both we and our allies got better value for money.
Thirdly, I would like Parliament to have real oversight of the procurement process. Instead of just reviewing the annual report from the Ministry of Defence, the Select Committee on Defence should be required to oversee and authorise major projects. We should take back as a Parliament the power to scrutinise what the Executive spend on our account. Specifically in relation to defence, the Defence Committee should be required to approve and sign off on particular large projects. That sort of oversight would ensure that there was genuine accountability on procurement.
Finally, anti-lobbying guidelines need to become law. I was delighted to hear my hon. Friend and neighbour the Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin), as Chair of the Public Administration Committee, making some suggestions about that the other day. I think that is exactly what we need to be prepared to introduce, to make sure that, yes, the expertise that exists in Government Departments can be shared with contractors, but that there are public records of those contacts and that where there is a revolving door there is some accountability to ensure that nothing untoward happens.
Britain needs a defence strategy that aims above all to keep our country safe. In an era of growing threats and constrained budgets, misspending is no longer a luxury that we can afford. We need real reform. I know that the Minister recognises the need to improve the way we spend our defence budget, and that he is a reformer. I also happen to know, too, that in his Department reformers do not always get an entirely easy ride. I look forward to hearing what changes he has in mind to improve things, and whether he will consider going further and recommending any of the measures I have outlined.
Of those 18,000 people, how many have been re-hired in a contractor or arm’s length capacity?
I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s intervention, but I am no clearer about her position on that issue. The measured approach in her earlier contribution contrasted with that of her colleague the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), who compared Trident to a burglar alarm. I disagreed, too, with the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) and the hon. Member for Fylde (Mark Menzies). Again, though, I thought their contributions were sincere and interesting, and I thank them for the tone they brought to the debate.
I was disappointed by the Labour Member who suggested that opposition to Trident was a narrow nationalist issue. I must disagree, as this issue concerns every one of us. Frankly, I was appalled at the comments and the tone of the name-calling contribution from the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock). His contribution added absolutely nothing constructive to today. On the other hand, I thank the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins), who made a useful and constructive speech, making his principled objections to Trident clearly understood. I commend, too, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock) for her compelling and insightful speech, and her thoughts on the legality of the use of Trident. I was also pleased to hear the knowledgeable and insightful contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan).
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) correctly pointed out that it is important that this debate is taking place now, as we rapidly approach main gate. I cannot support his call for a deterrent in another form, but it was positive to hear another Scottish representative participating in today’s debate, and it is unfortunate that neither the Secretary of State for Scotland nor the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) were in their places for today’s debate.
I was struck by the powerful remarks of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who focused on the dangers inherent in nuclear weapons, and by those of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr Godsiff), who rightly questioned the independence of the nuclear weapons we hold.
I have recently met both the Hibakusha—Japanese atom bomb survivors—and the mayor of Hiroshima. The message that these people who were so directly affected by these terrible nuclear weapons bring was clear. I dearly wish that the hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling and the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) had been able to join me to hear directly from them what the impact of nuclear weapons on real people really is.
The point made in the powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan)—that no one can win a nuclear war—was well made, and I can only applaud those sentiments.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Douglas Chapman) pointed out that if Trident ever gets through the main gate, it will become a steady drain on the defence budget. It will compete for resources with conventional equipment, which will get chopped and changed to suit the Government of the day’s political requirements rather than the needs of the armed forces. The irony of our not flinching at the astounding hike in an already indefensible cost was not lost on my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Steven Paterson). I have to wonder why this same logic was not applied to Nimrod, which the Government broke up when the price went up, leaving our huge Scottish coastline with absolutely no maritime patrol aircraft. As my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute said, that is a strange, worrying and very skewed logic.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green pointed out that the deterrent simply does not deal with our current threats and that it does not stack up. In the context of a capped defence budget, this does not make sense, as we saw from the concerns raised by the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh). As the implications of the SDSR become clearer, there is no doubt that we will see areas in which the Government expect our armed forces to do less.
I remind the Secretary of State for Defence again that people in Scotland are clear: there is determined national opposition to the renewal of Trident. I say that with 57 of 59 MPs in Scotland being SNP Members, and with the Churches, much of civic Scotland and the Scottish TUC all in opposition to renewal.
As we heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee West (Chris Law), this Conservative Government have no mandate to impose their immoral views on the people of Scotland. They show a wilful disregard of the people of Scotland and of the message that was sent here from the ballot box.
Will the Minister give way?
I asked the Minister earlier if he would reassure the workforce that the change in the industry would not affect their jobs throughout the supply chain. Will he do that now?
The Minister said there will be MOD oversight. Does that mean the MOD will be leading this, or will it be led from the Treasury?
1. What steps he is taking to ensure that the UK defence industry benefits from his Department’s procurement decisions. (902257)
The important Ajax armoured vehicle programme for the Army has been in the pipeline for years, yet it will use Swedish, not British, steel. We are told that our specialist steelmakers are up to the task, so when did the Government ask British firms whether they could produce the steel?
A number of colleagues and I visited our magnificent new aircraft carriers in Rosyth last week. It was therefore with some interest that we learned this morning that the Government apparently intend to order a large number of joint strike fighters to equip not only those aircraft carriers, but the Royal Air Force. Will my hon. Friend confirm the truth about that substantial increase in our fighting capability?
It was excellent to welcome the Minister to Barrow-in-Furness again last week and make another show of the bipartisan support across the House for renewing the UK’s nuclear deterrent submarines. Is there still a prospect of having the maingate vote before Christmas?
Of course, it is true that the defence industry can no longer source its requirements from the UK steel industry in many instances because of a loss of capability. Will the Minister work with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the defence industry and steel producers to put in place a long-term plan to ensure that UK steel develops the capability to meet the needs of the defence industry?
We are a maritime nation, so I welcome the newspaper reports—we will see whether they are true shortly—that the Prime Minister is to reverse his own decision and procure maritime patrol aircraft that are able, among other things, to defend our submarine fleet. One of the most visible signs of the botched 2010 strategic defence and security review was the photographs of our Nimrods being cut up into pieces, which we all saw in the newspapers at the time. When will the first of the new Boeing P-8s enter service?
The UK has been without that vital capability for four years as a result of the 2010 decision—right or wrong—to which the Minister refers. Today we read that Britain had to call on our French and Canadian allies to provide aircraft to search for a Russian submarine off our shores. Can the Minister at least give the House a definite date by which we will again have our own maritime patrol aircraft?
2. What his policy is on the role of the UK in the security of the Arctic and High North. (902258)
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10. What his policy is on ensuring the use of UK-produced steel in items procured by his Department. (902266)
The Minister will be aware that Swedish steel was used in the construction of offshore patrol craft and also in Scout armoured vehicles. Many in the steel community feel that that is a betrayal. Does he, like me, feel that British-produced steel should be specified in defence procurement contracts in order to protect steel, a strategically important industry?
Public procurement policies should seek to assist British industry, especially steel. It is clear that other countries support their own industries in that way. Why not Britain?
You can bet your bottom dollar, Mr Speaker—or rather, your bottom euro—that European countries will not be abiding by European Union law as far as procurement is concerned. Can my hon. Friend confirm—I am sure he can—that we will do all we can to procure British steel, providing it is of the right quality?
No one who has listened to the Minister’s answers today would have any confidence that he was going to take any serious steps to ensure that British steel was used in the purchase of the line of Type 26 frigates, which we expect to hear about shortly. Can he say a little more about what serious steps he will take, to justify the answer he has just given to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant)? Let us support the British steel industry through this very important Government contract.
5. What steps his Department is taking to monitor the effects of the Lariam form of mefloquine on service personnel who have taken that drug. (902261)
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11. What steps he is taking to increase the proportion of his Department’s procurement expenditure which goes to small and medium-sized enterprises. (902267)
What role are SMEs playing in the Trident replacement programme—for example, in the Rolls-Royce propulsion supply chain?
Will the Minister explain how the many small businesses in the defence supply chain in Lancashire can gain access to the £70 million innovation investment fund that the Secretary of State announced last month?
What difference would the renewal of Trident make to the defence supply chain?
12. What plans he has to strengthen the armed forces covenant. (902268)
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T2. Will the Minister advise the House on how central innovation is to the work of the MOD? Will he take this opportunity to spell out the role he sees the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down playing in the future strategy of defence in the UK? (902283)
T4. Médecins sans Frontières has reported that one of its hospitals in Damascus was hit in an aerial attack on Thursday, further increasing the number of civilian casualties from air strikes in Syria. In the light of Friday’s UN resolution on Syria, will the Secretary of State detail the additional measures that will be taken to provide safe passage and resettlement for civilian refugees should the UK vote to participate in air strikes? (902285)
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T9. Lockheed Martin submitted a bid for the new maritime patrol aircraft contract. With the proposed C130 multi-mission aircraft costing around 40% of Boeing’s, which also would have seen 80% of the project carried out by a UK workforce, will the Minister please enlighten the House about the process that was undertaken to award that contract ultimately to a costlier alternative that is not supporting British jobs? (902290)
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T8. At a time when it is clear that our nuclear defence is key, will the Minister update us on the progress that the MOD is making in delivering our nuclear-powered Astute submarines? (902289)
I agree with the Defence Secretary that ISIL poses a very direct threat to the UK, but does he agree that, if the Government are to take military action against Syria, that action should be framed within a wider strategy? Military action can serve as only one strand of that wider campaign. The Government will also need to leverage the political, diplomatic, economic and cultural tools that they have at their disposal.
Will the Minister tell me why, after decades of military, industrial and political consensus on the 20-minute limit, it is now felt necessary to make this change? Has his Department made an assessment of the financial saving accruing to Babcock? What analysis has he undertaken to ensure that the change is science-driven, not cost-driven? Can he enlighten me on what the Astute-class vessels’ procedures are, in terms of the 20-minute shutdown? Finally, will he tell me whether an independent nuclear safety assessment has been carried out? If so, what did the report say?
Let me be clear that this is not an old courtroom trick of asking questions to which one already knows the answers. These are genuine questions, and I am seeking helpful answers. As I said, I believe that nothing that I have said or asked is a threat to national security or could undermine our armed forces.
If the people of Helensburgh and Lomond and the workers at the base are to have faith in this facility, we have to be able to believe that those in charge will always make safety and security their top priority, and any suspicion that corners are being cut to save money has to be thoroughly investigated, but how can we have confidence when every single concern raised and brought to the attention of the authorities is met with the same standard response of “Move along; there is nothing to see here”? Confidence is further undermined when the concerns of a loyal and dedicated workforce are similarly dismissed.
I ask the Minister to seize this opportunity to show that transparency, accountability and appropriate public scrutiny are not alien concepts, and to restore the confidence of both employees at the base and my constituents that decisions are being taken in the correct manner and for the right reasons.