Philip Dunne debates involving the Ministry of Defence

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)

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 7th December 2020

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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What assessment he has made of the potential effect on his Department’s procurement policies of the November 2020 changes to the Green Book. (909795)

Ben Wallace Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace)
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne [V]
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The potential pragmatism of the Treasury towards its Green Book rules on public procurement is welcome, as it was heralded as one of my recommendations in my report on prosperity two and a half years ago. Does my right hon. Friend believe that this will make clear the prosperity metrics, which the Treasury will recognise when it comes to defence procurement, and will the Treasury accept that a pound spent on defence in the UK is worth more than a multiplier of 1 in the levelling-up impact on the UK economy?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 6th July 2020

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
James Heappey Portrait James Heappey
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to develop a defence industrial strategy to support the armed forces. [904226]

Ben Wallace Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Ben Wallace)
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Philip Dunne [V]
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6 Jul 2020, 3:07 p.m.

I am very pleased to hear my right hon. Friend’s commitment to the defence industry in that answer. Investment by Defence in innovation often stimulates dual-use commercial opportunities. The Prime Minister is clear that he wants the UK to be a science superpower, so will the defence industrial strategy make the case that a great place to start would be to double Defence investment in innovation?

Ben Wallace Portrait Mr Wallace
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6 Jul 2020, 3:07 p.m.

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.

Military Aircraft Manufacturing

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 8th May 2019

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies
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8 May 2019, 10:59 a.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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8 May 2019, 11:10 a.m.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. He is making a powerful speech and I agree with everything he has said thus far. Does he agree that to sustain the supply chain, which is an important focus of the national value proposition that he has just made and of his earlier remarks, it is important that the Government’s combat air strategy is backed up by contracts? That will allow the primes involved in Team Tempest and the supply chain that will support them to start investing to ensure that we maintain the design and engineering skills at the highest level for such a strategy to have an effect.

Mark Menzies Portrait Mark Menzies
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8 May 2019, 11:11 a.m.

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.

Continuous At-Sea Deterrent

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 10th April 2019

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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10 Apr 2019, 3:19 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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10 Apr 2019, 3:20 p.m.

I join my right hon. Friend in applauding the speech from the shadow Defence Secretary, but does he share my disappointment that she did not take any interventions? She may have been able to explain the fundamental flaw in Labour’s Front-Bench position, which is that we cannot have an effective deterrent if we have committed never to use it, as the shadow Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition have done.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Lewis
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10 Apr 2019, 3:20 p.m.

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.

Break in Debate

Mrs Moon
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10 Apr 2019, 4:16 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
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10 Apr 2019, 4:20 p.m.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), who painted a very clear and well-informed picture of the threat that we face. It is also a pleasure to speak in the debate.

I last spoke about this subject during a debate on alternatives to Trident under the coalition Government. It was a most unusual debate, in that it began with the then Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury putting forward one position which would put CASD at risk, and ended with me, in closing the debate, putting forward another that would sustain it for the foreseeable future. I recall colleagues—perhaps in all parts of the House—being somewhat bemused at the novel idea of Ministers pulling in opposite directions. I had firmly wished that those days were behind us. However, in a sense that highlights the main point that I wish to make today: regardless of the turbulent politics of the time or the party of government of the day, the continuous at-sea deterrent has been there, day in, day out and night after night, the ultimate guarantor of our nation’s security against existential blackmail or threat.

Let me begin by adding my personal tribute to the Royal Navy personnel who have made Operation Relentless the longest sustained military operation in this nation’s history. With each boat having two captains and two crews, allowing continuous deployment, there are a large number of personnel on whom we rely and who perform to the highest standard in the challenging conditions that other Members have already described. We should also be grateful for the support of their families; long operations can take a particular toll on loved ones. There are pinch points of skills, which means that attracting and retaining skilled submariners is vital, but difficult, for the maintenance of the deterrence. I support the Royal Navy’s efforts to allow increased flexibility in service to take account of modern family life in such difficult circumstances.

Of course, the deterrent has an impact on employment not only through boat crews but in the wider community. I hope that the House will excuse this shameless plug, but colleagues who read the Dunne review last year will be aware of the contribution of defence to our economy around the UK, and the submarine programme is a vital part of that. About 6,800 military and civilian personnel are currently employed at Her Majesty’s naval base Clyde. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, that number is scheduled to increase to more than 8,500, and Clyde will then become the largest employment site in Scotland. Those vital skilled jobs would be lost should the Scottish National party’s policy of scrapping the nuclear deterrent ever come to pass. Thousands more are employed in keeping the deterrent both current and afloat, working for companies in the industrial supply chain in constituencies all over the country—in addition to the particular concentration in the constituency of the hon. Member for Barrow and Furness (John Woodcock), who is in the Chamber to hear me point out that he is a long-standing champion of this whole endeavour. Now more than ever, it is vital that we make the case for our continuous at-sea deterrent.

Looking back over the 50 years of Operation Relentless, it is clear that in its infancy the need for the deterrent was fresh in the public consciousness, following the horrors of the second world war. In the years that followed, the immediate concern of Soviet proliferation and posturing outlined the very real potential existential threat to the west—perhaps no more so than during the Cuban missile crisis, which brought the world so close to the brink of devastating nuclear war. But since the fall of the Berlin wall 30 years ago and the collapse of the Soviet Union, current generations have faced a less obvious threat. For some, that has led to an undercurrent of public perception—so readily fed by social media misinformation—that there is less threat, and that the need for a nuclear deterrent is behind us. But that, as we have heard so well from the hon. Member for Bridgend, is fundamentally to turn blind eyes—to underestimate and ignore the global risks that we face as a country.

Mrs Moon
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10 Apr 2019, 4:25 p.m.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that also much of that disinformation that is on social media is actually generated out of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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10 Apr 2019, 4:29 p.m.

The hon. Lady is quite right to point out that the nature of warfare and threat has changed. It is no longer purely a direct kinetic effect. It is taking place in the airwaves all around us, and it will take effect not just through social media; the potential to disrupt vital national infrastructure is becoming a tool of conflict for the future. That is one of the challenges that I feel that we, as a nation, have to face up to more than we have to date.

The attitudes that I have just described are personified by the previous career of the Leader of the Opposition. I am sorry to have to raise that again and slightly disrupt the consensus that there is across at least the two main parties, but if, God forbid, such attitudes were ever allowed to pervade public discourse and become the official policy of the Opposition, it would do irreparable harm to our national security.

Now, as in the past, the UK faces a range of threats for which conventional forces simply cannot act as sufficient deterrent. The increasing Russian aggression, which we have heard about, the upgrading of their nuclear arsenal and delivery mechanisms, will continue to threaten the potential security of the west. Other states, including Iran and North Korea, maintain their nuclear ambitions despite international pressure. The existence of 17,000 nuclear weapons in the world today shows the risk that we still face.

Fortunately, in the face of such threats, we do not stand alone. Our membership of NATO—a nuclear alliance, as has been said by others—remains the cornerstone of our defence, and our decision to maintain the continuous at-sea deterrent sends a clear signal to our allies that we will continue to play our part in contributing to the security of all NATO members. It also provides NATO with another centre of decision making, alongside the primacy of our strongest ally, the United States. By sharing the burden of nuclear responsibility, we demonstrate the true collaborative nature of the nuclear alliance and of the mutual defence we are committed to upholding.

That close co-operation over our nuclear capability with the United States is at the very core of the strategic defence relationship between our two countries. It also places us in a pivotal role in offering continuing leadership to the free world. That was encapsulated by Winston Churchill in his last great speech in this place as Prime Minister, as he ushered in the era of the strategic deterrent. He said:

“Our moral and military support of the United States and our possession of nuclear weapons of the highest quality and on an appreciable scale, together with their means of delivery, will greatly reinforce the deterrent power of the free world, and will strengthen our influence within the free world.”—[Official Report, 1 March 1955; Vol. 537, c. 1897.]

In my view, that remains the case today, and is worth our bearing in mind as we approach the challenge of life after we leave the European Union.

Britain has the opportunity, as a responsible country, to show that nuclear powers need not relentlessly pursue further proliferation. While other states seek to increase their stockpiles, we have committed to reducing our overall nuclear weapons stockpile to no more than 180 warheads by the mid-2020s, having already reduced our operationally available warheads and the number of warheads and missiles on each boat, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon), the previous Defence Secretary, has just told us.

Britain has already led the way in this decade in showing that the existing stock of nuclear weapons in the world can be reduced. Next year, there will be another important milestone in that effort: the 2020 review conference of the parties to the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Our position as a P5 member of the UN Security Council provides the UK with the opportunity to continue to make the case for non-proliferation. Our work on developing disarmament verification solutions, particularly with the US, Sweden and Norway through the Quad Nuclear Verification Partnership, is helping to deliver an effective verification regime, which is essential if non-proliferation is to become a trusted way forward.

The fact that we have not had to use a nuclear weapon in conflict is a sign of their efficacy. Discouraging action through fear of consequences is the very definition of deterrence. In that respect, our continuous at-sea deterrent has been remarkably successful. A credible deterrent is not something that we can afford to relax. The skills on which it relies cannot be switched off and back on again in a time of crisis. To move away from a deterrent-based system would present an enormous risk to the country. It has not been shown how any alternatives to the deterrent would make the UK safer in the face of existential threats now and for future generations.

I point out to colleagues who believe that future risk is small enough to justify the removal of our deterrent that the world is an incredibly unpredictable place. The Dreadnought class of submarines is due to come into service in the 2030s with a 30-year expected lifespan. Our decision to maintain the deterrent will provide the ultimate guarantee of safety for our children and grandchildren.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
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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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 18th February 2019

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Mark Lancaster
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Feb 2019, 2:30 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

20. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when decisions are made about the placement of orders for vessels for the Royal Navy, which have seen an encouraging increase in number, and about who wins them, contributions to UK prosperity will play an important role? [909287]

Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Portrait Mark Lancaster
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Feb 2019, 2:30 p.m.

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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 14th January 2019

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 Jan 2019, 2:52 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

14 Jan 2019, 2:52 p.m.

Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity, in the light of tomorrow’s important votes, to explain his view of the claims made by some observers outside this place that the defence and security clauses of the withdrawal agreement would somehow cede control over defence operations and military procurement from Her Majesty’s Government to EU institutions?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

14 Jan 2019, 2:52 p.m.

I absolutely reassure the House that that is not going to happen. Our sovereign capability and sovereign control over our military and intelligence is something that will always be protected.

Modernising Defence Programme

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Tuesday 18th December 2018

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Dec 2018, 1:43 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

18 Dec 2018, 1:43 p.m.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, including his confirmation that there will be additional funds for the Ministry of Defence next year. I also welcome what he said about capabilities. Will he take this opportunity to tell us how he sees defence contributing to the prosperity of the United Kingdom with that extra money, and also to dispel some of the myths that are spreading outside this place about the future relationship between the MOD and the EU in respect of security matters?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

18 Dec 2018, 1:43 p.m.

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.

Combat Air Strategy

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Tuesday 17th July 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

17 Jul 2018, 1:42 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

17 Jul 2018, 1:43 p.m.

May I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend for driving the combat air strategy through the Department, alongside Air Command? It is a very exciting moment to be at the outset of a new combat air programme, but will he elaborate on what he thinks it will do for the defence industrial landscape of this country for generations to come?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

17 Jul 2018, 1:43 p.m.

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.

Defence Industry and Shipbuilding

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 11th July 2018

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith
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11 Jul 2018, 4:21 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:23 p.m.

I am listening very attentively to what the hon. Lady is saying. I am sure she will be aware that in March this year HM Treasury published, after a seven year review, a new definition of managing public money, which specifically allows, under UK procurement rules, for the concept of social value to be taken into account. She is therefore asking the Government to do something they have already decided to.

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:23 p.m.

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.

Break in Debate

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:30 p.m.

Yes, indeed; as my hon. Friend says, the Government have a poor track record. It is a great shame that so many opportunities have been wasted.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:31 p.m.

I cannot allow that to stand. I was in post when the P-8 Poseidon contract was placed, and an integral part of the relationship with Boeing was an understanding, now being fulfilled through contracts, that it would make a significant investment in RAF Lossiemouth. As a result, £400 million is now going into that base, in part to support and maintain those aircraft and other aircraft operated by our allies. Those aircraft will be coming here to the UK to be maintained and serviced. That means UK jobs and UK investment.

Nia Griffith Portrait Nia Griffith
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:31 p.m.

It is incumbent on the Government, though, to look again and strain every muscle to get the very best work-share agreements wherever they exist.

Break in Debate

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:49 p.m.

There was a UK bid.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:49 p.m.

May I help my right hon. Friend?

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:50 p.m.

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.

Break in Debate

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:56 p.m.

The Parker report is about our approach to shipbuilding, and it has led to our shipbuilding strategy and our defence industrial strategy.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:56 p.m.

rose—

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:56 p.m.

If I can make some progress, I may actually be able to answer the question.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:56 p.m.

Will the Minister give way?

Tobias Ellwood Portrait Mr Ellwood
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

11 Jul 2018, 4:56 p.m.

I am glad that there is nothing happening later.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard - -

11 Jul 2018, 4:57 p.m.

My right hon. Friend has been generous about my report, which was published on Monday, and I am grateful for the other comments about the report by Members on both sides of the House. On page 53 of the report, I refer to the fleet solid support ship and make the point that the fact that we are currently a member of the European Union means that we are precluded from taking advantage of the article 346 exemption to require that ship to be built in the UK. One of my recommendations is that we should take advantage of the opportunity of Brexit to consider the opportunity, after we leave the EU on 29 March 2019, to build UK content into our own procurement rules, which might allow us to change the position, but we cannot do that today.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 9th July 2018

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

9 Jul 2018, 3:20 p.m.

I am just seeking to recover from seeing the sartorial magnificence of the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Tom Watson)—quite remarkable.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

23. What steps his Department is taking to promote UK prosperity. [906335]

Gavin Williamson Portrait The Secretary of State for Defence (Gavin Williamson)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

9 Jul 2018, 3:21 p.m.

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Parliament Live - Hansard - -

9 Jul 2018, 3:22 p.m.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the opportunity to produce this report. I have to say that I was surprised but encouraged to see Opposition Front Benchers attending the launch earlier today, and given their contributions in the Chamber, they are clearly learning something from it. Does my right hon. Friend agree with my recommendation that we should take advantage, as we come out of the EU, and look at how the MOD can take account of the UK economic impact in its major procurements?

Gavin Williamson Portrait Gavin Williamson
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 27th June 2016

(4 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

This Government are committed to sustaining shipbuilding skills on the Clyde. As we confirmed in the strategic defence and security review last November, we will build two additional offshore patrol vessels before build work starts on the Type 26. This will help sustain shipbuilding skills between the completion of major blocks of the Queen Elizabeth class carriers and commencement of the Type 26 build. That remains the case; the plan has not changed. Over the next decade we will spend about £8 billion on Royal Navy warships.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Briefly, Minister.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We have already invested £1.6 billion in Type 26, including £472 million this March. I say to the hon. Lady as gently as I can that that commitment could not have been made if her friends had had their way and become independent, because shipbuilding would have ceased two months ago.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I say to my right hon. Friend, who is knowledgeable about these matters, that this will be one of the largest defence programmes that this Government will enter. I am sure that he will agree that it is absolutely right to enter into a contract once we are confident of the delivery schedule and the ability of the contractors to meet that schedule on a cost-effective basis. Once we are in that position, we will be ready to contract.

Kate Hollern Portrait Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.]

Break in Debate

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Thank you very much. A brief response from the Minister and we will move on.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As I have already indicated, this Government have already contracted significant sums into the programme. Once we are in a position to sign a contract, we will say what the duration of the build programme will be. We are not there yet.

Craig Whittaker Portrait Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

3. What recent discussions he has had with his international counterparts on progress in the campaign against Daesh. (905475)

Break in Debate

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

7. What estimate he has made of the projected increase in defence spending during this Parliament. (905479)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

I will answer pithily. This Government are delivering stronger defence. The defence budget will rise by 0.5% above inflation every year to 2020-21, and we will access up to £1.5 billion a year from the joint security fund by the end of this Parliament. This is the first time in six years that the defence budget will increase in real terms.

Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, NATO is the cornerstone of our defence, and we are leading players in influencing fellow NATO members to meet the spending commitment. Allies have made welcome progress since 2014; five now spend 2% of GDP on defence, eight spend 20% of their defence budgets on major equipment and research, 16 have increased defence spending in real terms and 24 are now spending more of their defence budgets on equipment.

Daniel Kawczynski Portrait Daniel Kawczynski
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend and constituency neighbour is right that the Nimrod programme suffered repeated and unacceptable delays and cost overruns. The decision in 2010 to cancel it was difficult but the planned purchase of nine P-8 Poseidon aircraft for maritime patrol will give us the capability we need in the timeframe we want, and at best value for the taxpayer.

Caroline Flint (Don Valley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am pleased to confirm to the right hon. Lady that in the area of defence equipment procurement, for which I am responsible, the Public Accounts Committee has found that we have consistently brought programmes in within budget and with minimal time overruns. I accept we have more to do on housing.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We have adopted the Government’s policy to ensure that defence contractors make all steel procurement opportunities available to UK producers. The amount of steel expected to be available for tender for future work is much reduced, because the most substantial amounts have been in the aircraft carrier programme and we will not be building vessels as big as that for the foreseeable future.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As was made clear in last year’s comprehensive spending review at the same time as the strategic defence and security review, and as I have already said this afternoon, the defence budget is going up in real terms in each year of this Parliament.

Emily Thornberry Portrait Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am not going to join those in the Opposition who seek to talk the economy down. We have a clear commitment to meet the NATO defence spending pledge and that is what we will do.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

8. What progress has been made on his Department’s naval procurement plans. (905480)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

The Department continues to develop our naval force structure, as we set out in the defence review. That will include completion of two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, eight Type 26 global combat ships, new solid support ships and two new offshore patrol vessels.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As I said in answer to other questions on the Type 26 programme, we will enter into a contract once we have established best value for the taxpayer, and a delivery schedule that can be met by the contractor.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman will have heard the Secretary of State confirm that that will not take too long.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

9. What discussions he has had with his Cabinet colleagues on preparations for the NATO Warsaw summit. (905481)

Break in Debate

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

13. What steps he is taking to increase the proportion of defence spending that goes to small firms. (905485)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

Small businesses are a crucial engine for growth and innovation in this country, and we are determined that they should play an increasing part in supplying defence. We are committed to achieving 25% of our procurement spend with small and medium-sized enterprises by 2020, and that target is 10% higher than the one set during the last Parliament. We recently refreshed our SME policy to show how we will work to achieve that.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris
- Hansard - - Excerpts

What steps is my hon. Friend taking to make it as simple as possible for small firms to benefit from this increased spend?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We have already appointed a new network of supply chain advocates to provide a named point of contact for potential suppliers. We are providing a new online tool for suppliers to highlight opportunities, and we are simplifying our standard terms and conditions.

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

I call Ian Murray.

Break in Debate

Ian Murray Portrait Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Apprentices are very important to maintain the skills on the Clyde to complete the Type 26 programme. The intention is that once we have signed the contract we will have clarity on the best value for money for the taxpayer. That is our priority.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

15. Whether the Government plan to publish a policy on the use of drones for targeted killing. (905487)

Break in Debate

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

I can confirm that the new MOD Donnington facility will be completed on schedule before the end of the year.

Mark Spencer Portrait Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Break in Debate

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The P-8 contract has not yet been let. We announced at the time our intention to procure P-8, and some $4.5 million per aircraft is UK-sourced. The support contracts will be let in due course.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Airbus is an important defence contractor and a significant employer in my hon. Friend’s constituency for both civil and defence work. Where it chooses to locate wings in the civil contracts in the future will be a matter for Airbus.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Break in Debate

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Exactly what actions are the Government taking to protest about the use of phosphorous bombs and barrel bombs against the people of Aleppo?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We have a very clear policy in this country on the export of cluster munitions and the like. We have not sold cluster munitions since 1989. The right hon. Lady asks about phosphorous, and I will write to her about it later.

James Heappey Portrait James Heappey (Wells) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Yemen: Cluster Munitions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Tuesday 24th May 2016

(4 years, 9 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

(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.

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

The United Kingdom last provided BL755 cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia nearly 30 years ago; the final delivery was in 1989. We ratified the convention on cluster munitions on 4 May 2010 and we no longer supply, maintain or support these weapons. We have not done so since we signed the convention in 2008. Based on all the information available to us, including sensitive coalition operational reporting, we assess that no UK-supplied cluster weapons have been used, and that no UK-supplied aircraft have been involved in the use of UK cluster weapons, in the current conflict in Yemen.

We are aware of reports of the alleged use of cluster munitions by the coalition in Yemen. We have raised their use during the current conflict in Yemen several times with the Saudi Arabian authorities and, in line with our obligations under the convention on cluster munitions, we continue to encourage Saudi Arabia, as a non-party to the convention, to accede to it. The Saudis have previously denied using UK cluster munitions during the conflict in Yemen, but we are seeking fresh assurances in the light of this serious new allegation.

Ms Ahmed-Sheikh
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The Government recognise the seriousness of the allegation and have therefore requested that the Saudi authorities reconfirm any evidence suggesting that UK munitions have been involved in the way alleged. We have no evidence of that at present. As I have said already, we have not supplied any such munitions for a long time. There have been seven conflicts in the border area between Saudi Arabia and northern Yemen over the past decade, and it is unclear from the evidence provided thus far that the munitions came from the current conflict.

As for the other issues mentioned by the hon. Lady, we have been clear that the role of the United Kingdom’s advisors to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces in this conflict is not operational. We welcome the ceasefire and the negotiations that are under way and have been for the past six weeks or so. We want them to be successful so that the cessation of hostilities continues to result in no further conflict in Yemen.

Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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—

Break in Debate

Sir Alan Duncan
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who speaks with considerable experience on matters Yemeni as the Prime Minister’s envoy to the country, which he visits, along with its neighbours, more often than most other Members. I gently remind Opposition Members who are rightly concerned about the impact of certain munitions in this conflict that, were it not for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia establishing the coalition following UN resolution 2216, it is highly likely that Yemen would have been entirely overrun and would be in a state of continuous chaos.

Emily Thornberry Portrait Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We regard the reports as serious. We are seeking to investigate, through our discussions with the Saudis, any further evidence to substantiate the allegations that have been made. I can categorically reassure the hon. Lady and this House that no British planes have been involved in this coalition effort at all, let alone in dropping cluster munitions—that is the potential allegation. There is no British involvement in the coalition in targeting or weaponising aircraft to undertake missions.

The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who deals with the middle east, was in Doha yesterday, where he met the United Nations envoy for Yemen. He has impressed upon him the need to continue with the delicate negotiations under way in Yemen.

Chris White (Warwick and Leamington) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I joined other Ministers in appearing before my hon. Friend’s Committee recently—a novel experience that I hope was satisfactory to its members. I am happy to undertake that, should we receive further evidence as a result of our inquiries into the use of cluster munitions, we will provide it to the Committees.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I ask the hon. Lady to consider her last remarks. There is no suggestion—none whatsoever—that the United Kingdom or our forces are involved in breaches of humanitarian law in this conflict. The humanitarian aid provided by this country to refugees as a result of the crisis in Yemen is second in the ranking of countries around the world. We have a proud record of supporting the humanitarian cause of people disturbed by this crisis. As she will probably be aware, the UN estimates that some one fifth of people in need around the world as a result of conflict are in Yemen. We are committed to supporting a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Arms exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in recent years have primarily been about providing capability to cope with incursion by foreign powers. These exports support the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the anti-Daesh coalition, in which they play a vital role. The hon. Lady has to look at the challenges in the round in the region and at the role that Saudi Arabia plays in providing continued security to the region.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing out that this is a very volatile country that has played host to a number of international terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda. I agree that it is desirable for more countries to sign up to the convention on cluster munitions. We have encouraged our friends in Saudi Arabia to do so on several occasions.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am not casting doubt on the photographic evidence. The challenge is to determine where and when the munitions were laid, and by whom. There is very little evidence at this point. We are taking this matter up with the Saudi authorities. We are particularly concerned about the potential evidence of any UK munitions that might have been used in this way. As I have indicated, if we find any evidence, we will pass it on to the Committees on Arms Export Controls, on which the hon. Gentleman sits. In relation to the questions that he posed to me and the other people who appeared before the Committees the other day about the extent of the investigations into other matters that we are reviewing and on which we are seeking information from the Saudi authorities, I am not aware that any further information has been forthcoming since we met the Committees a couple of weeks ago.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, who has taken a consistent interest in Yemen for many years, for pointing out that the coalition effort in Yemen began at the invitation of President Saleh—

Keith Vaz
- Hansard - - Excerpts

President Hadi.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Sorry, President Hadi. It is therefore a fully legitimised operation. The right hon. Gentleman is right that the primary aim of the efforts of the United Kingdom Government is to ensure that peace is restored to the country. To that end, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), meets the Saudi ambassador routinely. He last saw him last week and continually impresses upon him the importance of the negotiations in Kuwait. We are seeking to assist those negotiations to the extent that we can.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

In my response to the urgent question, I made it clear that 1989 was the last time we supplied any BL-755 munitions.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

This is a civil war and in civil wars, difficult things happen. This is a very complex environment. Actors use whatever is available to them, in respect of the terrain that is there, to adopt positions. It is not a nice, straightforward, clinical exercise like a training event. Therefore, accidents do happen. As a result of our relationship with the Saudi Arabian armed forces, we are in a position to exert some influence on the coalition and, in particular, its leadership in respect of investigating accidents when they occur and allegations of incidents such as those that the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned. We are putting that pressure on the Saudis and they have given us undertakings that they are undertaking those investigations, and we are awaiting the outcome.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman, who is experienced in these matters, will be aware of the coalition’s efforts to intercept matériel that foreign Governments, in particular Iran, are seeking to supply to rebels through the waters surrounding Yemen. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs met the Iranian chargé d’affaires last week to raise that specific issue. We will continue to put diplomatic pressure on the Iranians to cease their support for the rebels.

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

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Again, the hon. Gentleman has taken a consistent interest in this subject and plays an important role on the Committees. I repeat what I said to the Committees, which is that we at the Ministry of Defence provide advice to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which is the entity within the UK Government that provides arms export licences. Our advice will be shaped by the circumstances at the time. At present, we have an allegation of the use of a UK munition. Until such time as we have established whether that munition has been used by a member of the coalition as part of the current conflict, we will not be in a position to speculate on what might happen to future licence applications.

Oliver Heald Portrait Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for pointing out that munitions have quite a long shelf life. As I indicated, it is quite possible that the munitions that are the subject of this allegation are a relic of previous conflicts in the area, of which there have been seven over the past 10 years.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As a signatory to the convention, we encourage non-signatories with which we have close military relations to consider acceding to the terms of the convention or joining it themselves. Through our offices at the UN, there are periodic dialogues with countries that are not, as yet, signatories to the convention, and we will continue to support those discussions.

Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We are looking at all the allegations made by the various bodies mentioned in the Chamber, and we have the opportunity to indicate to the Saudi military that these incidents are worthy of investigation. This is an ongoing process, and we have had opportunities to encourage the Saudis to speed up their investigations. However, at this point, I am afraid that I cannot put a timetable on it.

Alison Thewliss Portrait Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Lady referred to munitions falling. We do not know at this point when, where or how the munitions referred to in the allegations were delivered. It is that kind of information that will help to inform the investigation and what is then done about it. In relation to clearing up the munitions that clearly do exist in northern Yemen, we are supporting a number of non-governmental organisations by providing resource and training to encourage them to undertake this very important work.

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

rose—

Break in Debate

Dr Mathias
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I can help my hon. Friend. The last munitions were supplied to Saudi Arabia in 1989. The convention was signed in 2008; at that point, although it did not come into effect until May 2010, we ceased supplying or supporting those weapons any further.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Completely confident.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I would gently remind the hon. Gentleman that we are not members of this coalition. We do not have locus in Yemen to undertake direct investigations ourselves. What we are talking about are alleged violations of international humanitarian law. The correct procedure when an incident has been brought to the attention of members of the coalition is for them to undertake the investigation itself. We are able to encourage and stimulate them to undertake that investigation, because there is a long-standing relationship between our respective armed forces. That is what we are doing, and that is the right way to proceed.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

If these reports are not enough, under what circumstances would the Government actually suspend sales of arms to Saudi Arabia?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

This is an allegation. There are a number of allegations of potential violations of international humanitarian law. If investigations lead to clear evidence, that evidence will have to be taken into account whenever an arms export licence is presented and where that information is relevant.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Such a call would, of course, have no impact on the use of weapons that have already been supplied, so it would not achieve what the hon. Gentleman looks to do. The answer is that we are using our influence on the Saudi Arabians to encourage them to undertake investigations in circumstances where there has been conflict on the ground. This has been a war environment; difficult things happen in wars, and it is not possible to be absolutely certain about everything that takes place in such an environment. That is why it is important to investigate these allegations of actions that appear to be in breach of international humanitarian law.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

There are no UK Royal Air Force planes involved in the coalition, and there are no cluster munitions in the arsenal of the British armed forces.

Lisa Cameron Portrait Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

There is a clear process under which the Saudis, as leaders of the coalition, undertake the investigation. That is a novel aspect of this conflict. The Saudis have not done that before in previous conflicts in which they have been engaged. We think that that is appropriate, as do all other nations.

Defence

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Tuesday 3rd May 2016

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Defence
Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

More broadly for Scotland, our commitment to the successor programme will sustain 6,800 military and civilian jobs there, rising to 8,200 by 2022. As the programme progresses, an additional 270 personnel will be based at Her Majesty’s naval base Clyde. Extending the Typhoon until at least 2040, and upgrading it with the active electronically scanned array radar, will benefit RAF Lossiemouth and continue to benefit Selex ES in Edinburgh. Our new maritime patrol aircraft will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is ideally placed for the most common maritime patrol areas and is currently used as a maritime patrol aircraft operating base by our NATO allies. This will also lead to significant investment, and our current estimate is for some 200 extra jobs in Scotland.—[Official Report, 25 April 2016, Vol. 608, c. 1139.]

Letter of correction from Philip Dunne.

An error has been identified at the end of my response.

The correct response should have been:

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

More broadly for Scotland, our commitment to the successor programme will sustain 6,800 military and civilian jobs there, rising to 8,200 by 2022. As the programme progresses, an additional 270 personnel will be based at Her Majesty’s naval base Clyde. Extending the Typhoon until at least 2040, and upgrading it with the active electronically scanned array radar, will benefit RAF Lossiemouth and continue to benefit Selex ES in Edinburgh. Our new maritime patrol aircraft will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is ideally placed for the most common maritime patrol areas and is currently used as a maritime patrol aircraft operating base by our NATO allies. This will also lead to significant investment, and our current estimate is for some 400 extra jobs in Scotland.

Shipbuilding on the Clyde

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 25th April 2016

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Emily Thornberry Portrait Emily Thornberry (Islington South and Finsbury) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

(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.

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

Before I answer the hon. Lady’s question, I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Captain David Seath, who tragically died after collapsing during the London marathon on Sunday. This was of course not an operational casualty, but given the interest that many hon. Members take in raising funds for charity through the marathon, as do many members of our armed forces, I thought that it was appropriate to start my response in that way. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

I welcome the opportunity to outline our plans for building complex warships. The Type 26 global combat ship programme is central to those plans. The strategic defence and security review restated this Government’s commitment to the Type 26 global combat ship programme. The ships are critical for the Royal Navy, and we are going ahead with eight anti-submarine warfare Type 26 global combat ships. The SDSR also made it clear that build work on Type 26 would be preceded by the construction of two additional offshore patrol vessels and that we would launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible, general purpose frigates. The construction of the additional offshore patrol vessels will provide valuable capability for the Royal Navy and, crucially, will provide continuity of shipbuilding workload at the shipyards on the Clyde before construction of the Type 26 begins.

Nothing has changed since the publication of the SDSR, and over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy surface warships. We continue to progress the Type 26 global combat ship programme, and we announced last month the award of a contract with BAE Systems valued at £472 million to extend the Type 26 demonstration phase to June 2017. That will enable us to continue to work with industry to develop an optimised schedule for the Type 26 and OPV programme to reflect the outcome of the SDSR, to mature further the detailed ship design ahead of the start of manufacture, to invest in shore testing facilities and to extend our investment in the wider supply chain in parallel with the continuing re-baselining work.

Overall, the SDSR achieved a positive and balanced outcome, growing the defence budget in real terms for the first time in six years, delivering on our commitment to spend at least 2% of GDP on defence and, in the maritime sector, setting the trajectory for expansion of the Royal Navy’s frigate fleet. That growth in numbers will be achieved through the introduction of a more affordable light general purpose frigate—GPFF. The GPFF reflects a shift in the Navy’s focus and posture to delivering the strategic defence outputs of continuous at-sea deterrence and continuous carrier capability with our unique high-end warships: six Type 45 destroyers and eight Type 26 frigates. A large range of other naval tasks will be undertaken by the GPFF.

To deliver the SDSR, we must improve and develop our national shipbuilding capability to become more efficient, sustainable and competitive internationally. To that end, we announced the intent to have a national shipbuilding strategy, and I am delighted that Sir John Parker, a pre-eminent engineer and foremost authority in naval shipbuilding, has started work as the independent chair of that project. I look forward to receiving his recommendations, which will address, among other things, the best approach to the GPFF build.

I understand the strong interest in the timing of the award of the contract to build the T26 global combat ship, and I also understand that reports of delays create anxiety, but let me assure the shipyard workers on the Clyde that this Government remain absolutely committed to the Type 26 programme and to assembling the ships on the Clyde, and that we are working closely with BAE Systems to take the Type 26 programme forward, ensuring that it is progressed on a sustainable and stable footing.

More broadly for Scotland, our commitment to the successor programme will sustain 6,800 military and civilian jobs there, rising to 8,200 by 2022. As the programme progresses, an additional 270 personnel will be based at Her Majesty’s naval base Clyde. Extending the Typhoon until at least 2040, and upgrading it with the active electronically scanned array radar, will benefit RAF Lossiemouth and continue to benefit Selex ES in Edinburgh. Our new maritime patrol aircraft will be based at RAF Lossiemouth, which is ideally placed for the most common maritime patrol areas and is currently used as a maritime patrol aircraft operating base by our NATO allies. This will also lead to significant investment, and our current estimate is for some 200 extra jobs in Scotland.[Official Report, 3 May 2016, Vol. 609, c. 1MC.]

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Emily Thornberry Portrait Emily Thornberry
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for your advice at the end of my opening remarks. I will keep my response brief.

The hon. Lady is seeking to make party political capital out of a routine meeting between BAE Systems and the trade unions that took place last week and that happened to come nearly two weeks ahead of the election for the Scottish Parliament. As I said in my opening remarks, the commitment of this Government to the Royal Navy is crystal clear. We have a 10-year forward equipment plan, in which we will be investing more than £8 billion in surface ships. Where is her party’s commitment to the Royal Navy? What percentage of GDP will her party commit to spend on defence in this country? We hear nothing about that.

Let me turn to the hon. Lady’s specific questions. She asked whether construction will begin this year. As I said earlier, we placed a contract last month for a further £472 million, which takes our contract on this programme up to some £1.6 billion. That is paying for equipment sets for the first three vessels; long lead items; and shore-testing facilities. The programme therefore remains on track. We have confirmed before, and I have done so again today, that there will be eight Type 26 frigates built on the Clyde. As I have said, this is a multi-year programme that extends beyond the equipment plan. The Type 23s will be replaced by a combination of the Type 26s and the new GPFF.

The hon. Lady asked when the national shipbuilding strategy will be published. We have invited the independent chairman to ensure that his work is completed before the end of the year, and I fully expect that it will be. She asked when the timeframe for the general purpose frigates will be determined. As that is a principal part of the national shipbuilding strategy, the answer will be apparent once that strategy is published.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. He is very knowledgeable about matters naval. He is right to draw attention to the fact that the introduction of a new and lighter class of frigate raises the prospect not only of more surface platforms for the Royal Navy, but of more exports. As far as I am aware, there has not been a complex warship exported from Clyde yards to other navies around the world for some decades. This provides us with the opportunity, through the general purpose frigate and the additional offshore patrol vessels, to give the Royal Navy, in due course, a larger physical presence and therefore to reverse the decades of decline.

Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O'Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

What I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman is that, had the independence vote gone the way that he and his colleagues would have liked, no warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there; we made that very clear. As it is, as I have just confirmed to the House, we will be proceeding with the construction of eight complex Type 26 warships on the Clyde as and when the programme is ready.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend is right to highlight that obfuscation on the part of the official Opposition. I draw to his attention the backlog of work ahead of shipbuilders in this country as a result of our equipment plan and our commitment to build the eight Type 26 vessels. No warship yard in Europe has the prospect of eight warships to look forward to. From that perspective, those working in those yards in Scotland can take considerable heart from the fact that they are working in our yards, rather than those elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

That is a good question, and I wish that I were in a position to give the hon. Gentleman a full answer. What I will say is that the vast majority of the contracts that have been placed thus far have gone to UK contractors. In relation to the systems and long-lead items that have been placed thus far, the contracts have gone primarily to BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce; in relation to the gearboxes, they have gone to David Brown. As far as the steel content is concerned—I know this is a matter of great interest to the hon. Gentleman—I have made it very clear previously in the House that UK steel mills will have the opportunity to bid for steel tenders that are put out by the prime contractor over the course of this programme. It will be up to the British steel industry to see whether it is in a position to match those orders for the specification and the timelines required.

Flick Drummond Portrait Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend pushes me to pre-empt the Royal Navy’s normal routine on the making of designations and, indeed, the naming of vessels—she did not ask about that, but I am regularly asked about it by colleagues in the House, who rightly like to express an interest on behalf of their constituents. I am afraid I cannot currently give her any comfort on the designation of the vessels. She is right to ask whether they will be designed with export prospects in mind. As I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), the Chairman of the Defence Committee, that is something we intend to look at, but the priority will be to meet the requirements of the Royal Navy, rather than of other navies, so the vessels will be designed to Royal Navy specifications, but with an eye on the possibility of exports to other navies.

Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman is a doughty champion of English shipbuilding capability in his constituency, which is across the border from Scotland. I do not have a figure for him—he asked what would happen with the Type 26 programme in Scotland—but our intent is to build the ships on the Clyde, in Scotland, so I do not foresee any direct change from the position we were in last year. As far as his comment on independence is concerned, he is absolutely right that there would have been an enormous reduction in the jobs in Scotland had the Scottish people decided to follow Scottish National party advice and vote for an independent Scotland. [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker
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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.

Break in Debate

Tom Pursglove Portrait Tom Pursglove
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

We have made it very clear that British Government procurement policies are being adopted by the Ministry of Defence. In all our contracts where steel is involved, we are looking to provide for contractors to ensure that British steel manufacturers have an opportunity to bid. In that respect, the only change is that there are perhaps greater opportunities since we implemented that new policy than there were before.

Alistair Carmichael Portrait Mr Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for focusing his question on that important subject, and I agree that the workforce on the Clyde are highly skilled; indeed, I make a point of meeting the trade union representatives of shipbuilders on the Clyde, and I did so last month. The short answer to his question is yes. The five offshore patrol vessels—three of which are in build, and two of which we added as part of the SDSR—do provide continuity between the Type 45s and the aircraft carrier blocks, as they finish being produced on the Clyde, and the beginning of work on the Type 26s.

Richard Drax Portrait Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I think my hon. Friend is referring to the Type 23 class of frigates. The Royal Navy’s intention is that the new vessels replace Type 23s on a like-for-like basis as they come out of service.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I can tell the workforce that, as I have told their trade union representatives—I also said this to the hon. Lady when she visited me last month—we have a programme for the Type 26, the offshore patrol vessels and the subsequent general purpose frigate that will secure jobs for the shipbuilding workforce in this country, especially on the Clyde, for decades to come. This is the biggest shipbuilding forward programme we have had in this country for a number of years, and that should reassure the highly skilled workforce that they will have jobs for decades to come.

Jason McCartney Portrait Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the gear box work for David Brown, which, as I said earlier, has secured long-lead contracts last month. The benefit of the Royal Navy shipbuilding programme is not confined to Scotland; it affects constituencies right across this country, which is just as it should be. When contracts are placed, we will seek to highlight to hon. Members the work we will be providing in their constituencies for their constituents.

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) (Lab)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I hope that some of the remarks I made earlier will provide some reassurance to the families of those who work on the Clyde. Part of the contracts we have already signed with BAE Systems will help to provide shore test facilities both on the Clyde and through the supply chain, so some investment is going into facilities. The overall level of facilities investment will be part of the overall contract, so I cannot update the hon. Lady further at this point.

Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend makes a really valuable point. There is no doubt that before starting the construction of a complex warship, it makes an enormous difference if the design is more complete than otherwise. He is right to point out that the Type 45 programme began with a less advanced design than the Type 26 will have, and we hope we are learning lessons from that. We have certainly learned lessons in relation to the power and propulsion, and we will have a different system.

Chris Stephens Portrait Chris Stephens (Glasgow South West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

It is very unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman, who represents his constituents well—I have been pleased to meet him at the yard in the past—uses words such as “betrayal”, because that does not characterise what is happening. We are making commitments to build the Type 26 for several years ahead. I cannot, I am afraid, give him an update on the date for cut steel, as that will emerge from the programme work that is yet to be finalised. It is wrong to suggest that people should be fearful of the outcome of the national shipbuilding project, which seeks to put the rollercoaster ride of shipbuilding in this country in recent years on to a firm and stable footing so that there is clarity for the next decades. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says, “That is what they think”, so perhaps I can help him by saying that the objective of the national shipbuilding strategy is to align the Royal Navy’s requirements, which stretch out for many years ahead, with the capability to maintain in this country the high-quality engineering skills that, at present, reside primarily on the Clyde in his constituency.

Stephen Doughty Portrait Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait and see what emerges from the national shipbuilding strategy. The intent is that by having a more affordable design we are able to do some of the less high-tempo tasks that the Type 26 will undertake. That should allow the Royal Navy to have more than five frigates. I can confirm that the intent is to replace the Type 23s on a like-for-like basis as between the Type 26 and the general purpose frigate, with the potential for there to be more. He will have to wait to see what emerges from the national shipbuilding strategy with regard to the timetable and the location.

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

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I remind the hon. Gentleman that part of the strategic ambition is fulfilled by the two primary battlegroup capabilities: continuous at-sea deterrence and the continuous carrier capability. I can absolutely reassure him that the military assets in place on and around the Falklands are of an order of magnitude greater than they have been in previous times, particularly compared with 1982, so the notion of having to send a flotilla of the type that was sent at that time would not be required in the event of a threat to the Falklands today.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The objective of the national shipbuilding strategy is to look at the manufacture of complex warships. As part of that, there are, as the hon. Lady says, significant capabilities across the country through the supply chain. We are not expecting a detailed review of all elements of the supply chain, but I take her point and will reflect on it in my conversations with Sir John Parker.

Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald (East Renfrewshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Lady will have to have a little more patience. The way in which major procurements of this nature take place means that it is not appropriate to set hares running or, frankly, to be alarmist about the prospects for individual companies or locations. Until such time as a contract has been signed, there is not the clarity that the hon. Lady seeks to achieve.

Ms Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Lady needs to speak to those who were in post when the decisions were taken to reduce the Type 45 class. That was certainly not done under this Government. We made it crystal clear in the SDSR that eight Type 26 global combat ships would be built on the Clyde. In response to the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald), may I say that that is the reassurance that the workforce on the Clyde need? This is a forward programme, the like of which, during the past six years under the previous coalition Government, we had not been able to implement: now we can.

Stephen Kinnock Portrait Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As the hon. Gentleman knows—he may well have been an expert on the subject for a long time, but he is certainly something of an expert now—steel of the specification and standards required for naval warships is not available in many of the routine runs of, for example, plate steel provided by UK suppliers. That is why there have been different proportions of UK steel content in different types of military platforms. The offshore patrol vessels, for example, have a thinner plate than that which is currently available from any of the mills in the UK, which is why no UK mills chose to bid for the steel content that has been contracted thus far. I cannot tell him whether there is capability at this stage for the Type 26 steel requirements, but I have made a commitment that we will invite steel manufacturers to understand what those capabilities are and give them an opportunity to bid.

Tommy Sheppard Portrait Tommy Sheppard (Edinburgh East) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

All I can say to the hon. Gentleman and to the workforce on the Clyde is that we have, through the SDSR and again today, made a commitment to build eight Type 26s on the Clyde. That will provide work for the highly skilled workforce on the Clyde for many years.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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”?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I find it hard to characterise a commitment to build eight complex warships on the Clyde as a betrayal. That is what we did in the SDSR and it has not changed.

Peter Grant Portrait Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am sorry to have to say to the hon. Gentleman that the risk to employment on the Clyde would have arisen if the people of Scotland had followed his advice and chosen to vote for an independent Scotland. Thankfully, they did not, and as a result hundreds of people are still working in shipbuilding on the Clyde.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I encourage the hon. Gentleman to spend a little more time in the yards on the Clyde to understand how components and systems are an integral part of the capability of building a complex warship. Fabrication is an important part, but much of the value and content comes from introducing weapons command and control systems, which are not built on the Clyde. Fabrication is done there, as is integration, and that will continue to be undertaken there.

Steven Paterson (Stirling) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I have to repeat to the hon. Gentleman that we have committed to build eight Type 26 complex warships on the Clyde. Had the people of Scotland voted for an independent future, we would not have made that commitment.

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Ian Blackford Portrait Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am not sure that the simmering has really calmed the hon. Gentleman down. As I have said, we have made a clear commitment to build eight Type 26s on the Clyde, providing high-quality jobs. That would not have been the case had the people of Scotland voted for independence.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
- Hansard - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 18th April 2016

(4 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con)
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4. What estimate he has made of the likely change in the level of defence spending over the course of this Parliament. (904480)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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As from this month, the Ministry of Defence’s budget has risen to more than £35 billion—that is an increase of £800 million on the year just ended. This is the first real-terms increase in six years, reflecting the priority set out by this Government in the 2015 spending review to increase defence spending by 0.5% above inflation every year to 2020-21. This Government have clearly committed this country to meeting the NATO guideline of spending 2% of GDP on defence each and every year of this decade.

Christopher Pincher Portrait Christopher Pincher
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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My hon. Friend is right to identify that the threats we face are growing in scale, complexity and concurrency, and a failure to meet this commitment would have a significant adverse impact on our ability to deliver the capability we need to face those threats and would send a very wrong message to our adversaries. Our commitment to spending 2% of GDP on defence enables us to deliver one of the most capable armed forces in the world; to spend more than £178 billion on equipment and equipment support over the next decade; and to fund an increase in the number of regular personnel for both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, and of reservists for the British Army.

Andrew Gwynne Portrait Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The hon. Gentleman, in characteristic style, is looking for smoke where there is no fire. We use the NATO definition to make the calculation of our proportion of GDP spent on defence, and it assesses the figure and then publishes it. We have done that in the past under previous Administrations and we will do it again under this one.

Jack Lopresti Portrait Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I thank my hon. Friend for giving me the chance to rehearse again our commitment to increased spending on defence and security for each and every year of this Parliament—that will be a real-terms increase. We have published our 10-year forward equipment plan, which shows the contribution that defence will be making to the prosperity of the nation—that is another objective we have taken on in the defence review for the first time. That will benefit both the security of our nation and the economy as a whole.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The hon. Lady is very experienced in these matters, and she will know that, in 2010, the then coalition Government inherited a dire financial situation across the public sector, and especially in defence, and some very difficult decisions had to be taken to reduce certain front-line elements, including our aircraft carriers. She is also fully aware that we are in the midst of the largest shipbuilding programme that this country has ever known. Early next year, we expect to see the first of the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers moved out of Rosyth to take up their position with the Royal Navy.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I thank my hon. Friend who, in a previous role, had responsibility for promoting defence exports. I also wish to say that I have even better news for him: the announcement last week of the sale of Typhoons to Kuwait was for not for 24 aircraft, but for 28.

Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
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What defence spending can the Minister guarantee for the steel industry given that the procurement rules allow for community benefit?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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This Government have undertaken a new set of procurement guidelines for steel, which we have implemented through the Ministry of Defence through a combination of briefings to the Defence Suppliers Forum undertaken by the Secretary of State. I have also written to the chief executives of the 15 largest contractors. We are cascading that through the supply chain to ensure that, for future defence procurement, there is every opportunity for UK steel manufacturers to bid for tenders.

Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The hon. Gentleman really needs to read those letters more carefully. The reduction to which he referred related to the in-year spending of the Department, which ended at the beginning of this month. The defence budget for the current year, and for each future year, is going up, and the question that he and his colleagues need to answer is this: why will his party not commit, as our party has, to the 2% NATO commitment?

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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5. What assessment he has made of the progress of the international campaign to defeat ISIS/Daesh. (904481)

Break in Debate

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge (South Suffolk) (Con)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State indicated earlier, the nuclear deterrent is at the apex of the UK’s full spectrum of defence capability. The UK’s defence nuclear enterprise is gearing up to deliver the successor to the Vanguard class submarines. Last month we announced a further £642 million of preparatory work ahead of the investment decision for this £31 billion programme. That investment in Successor submarines will not only help keep Britain safe but support over 30,000 jobs across the UK.

James Cartlidge Portrait James Cartlidge
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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My hon. Friend is absolutely right. As the Secretary of State indicated in his speech on nuclear deterrence before Easter, we have both a political and a moral responsibility to protect our people and allies. The nuclear deterrent is assigned to NATO, and as a leading member of NATO we cannot and should not outsource our commitments to others. There has been broad political consensus for decades in this House on the need to maintain the UK’s independent strategic deterrent. Government Members are clear where we stand. This remains the official policy of Her Majesty’s official Opposition, and it is in our view irresponsible that the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry) and her leader appear determined to put the ultimate security of our nation at risk.

John Spellar Portrait Mr John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The right hon. Gentleman, who speaks with some knowledge on these matters, has given a strong indication to the House that there will be a broad measure of support, which we thoroughly welcome. I will offer the Prime Minister his advice.

Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the fact that that programme will benefit not just those folks working for Rolls-Royce in various plants, particularly around Derby, or those employees of BAE Systems, the prime contractor, but companies in constituencies right across the breadth of this country, including his own.

James Cleverly Portrait James Cleverly (Braintree) (Con)
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9. What steps he is taking to protect the armed forces from persistent legal claims. (904485)

Break in Debate

Pauline Latham Portrait Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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The UK is proud to be one of five NATO countries that meet the commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Since the defence investment pledge was made at the Wales summit in 2014, progress has been made, with 16 allies increasing defence spending in real terms and 24 allies now spending more of their defence budgets on equipment. As it happens, the leadership role that the UK is given in NATO on this issue was warmly welcomed once again by the US Deputy Defence Secretary in my bilateral discussions with him last Friday.

Pauline Latham Portrait Pauline Latham
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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?

Mr Speaker
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Briefly.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I am not sure that the Speaker will give me enough time to answer both those issues, so I will focus on the first, if I may. The NATO Secretary-General was here last week and he praised the United Kingdom for our leadership on defence spending and our contribution to NATO. By the NATO summit in Warsaw in July, we expect to see further progress on the part of our allies in working to meet NATO’s 2% guideline. By contrast, the deafening failure to match that commitment by the Labour party sends precisely the wrong message to our allies and, even worse, to our adversaries.

Martin Docherty-Hughes Portrait Martin Docherty-Hughes (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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As I indicated earlier this afternoon, NATO makes the definition and assesses the contributions that are made by each member nation to its return. It is not for the United Kingdom to make that determination; it is for NATO to do so.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab)
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13. What steps his Department is taking to support British jobs and industry through its procurement process. (904490)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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In the recent strategic defence and security review, the Ministry of Defence agreed a new strategic objective of contributing to the nation’s prosperity. We do that in many ways, not least by spending some £20 billion a year with industry, around half of which is in the manufacturing sector, and some £4 billion with small and medium-sized enterprises.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I am in a position to update the House on the steel component of the aircraft carrier contract, which is much the largest defence procurement contract. Of the structural steel, some 95,000 tonnes have been procured from UK steel mills over the period of that contract.

Rehman Chishti Portrait Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con)
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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?

Break in Debate

Seema Kennedy (South Ribble) (Con)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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We welcome wholeheartedly this month’s contract signed by Kuwait for 28 Typhoon aircraft. Kuwait thereby becomes the eighth country to select the Eurofighter Typhoon and the third in the Gulf to do so. It is very positive both for our bilateral and defence relationship and, as my hon. Friend indicates, for jobs across the British aerospace and defence industry, including the thousands employed by BAE Systems at Warton in Lancashire, many of whom are her constituents. It is excellent news for the whole supply chain right across the UK.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD)
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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)

Break in Debate

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government as a whole are committed to supporting the UK steel industry. The Ministry of Defence has issued new policy guidance to the prime contractors to address barriers to the open market. I am working closely with our contractors to ensure that they support the new policy. In relation to the submarine contracts, as and when they are placed, UK suppliers have an important role to play in the supply of some specialist steels, but at present we do not have manufacturers that are capable of supplying other specialist steels, so there is a balance.

Tim Loughton Portrait Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con)
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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)

Break in Debate

Diana Johnson Portrait Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I recently announced a new support contract for the Hawk aircraft that takes it up to November 2020. We have time to decide how to sustain Hawks beyond that. That is much as I can say. However, I will tell the hon. Lady that the Red Arrows are due to commence a substantial programme of displays in this country and overseas this summer. I hope that many Members have the opportunity to watch them.

John Glen Portrait John Glen (Salisbury) (Con)
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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)

Break in Debate

Ronnie Cowan Portrait Ronnie Cowan (Inverclyde) (SNP)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The Department places the safety of our nuclear fleet at the highest possible level. There are continuous attempts to ensure that any potential threats to our submarines are monitored. If the hon. Gentleman has something specific he would like to draw to our attention he should do so, and I am happy to meet him to discuss it.

Chris Green Portrait Chris Green (Bolton West) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for highlighting the success of Tata Steel in supplying steel for the aircraft carrier. Other grades and types of steel are not currently available in this country and we would be happy to talk to the industry about what steps it can take to make such steel types available.

Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab)
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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?

Defence

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd March 2016

(5 years ago)

Ministerial Corrections

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Ministry of Defence
Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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As my hon. Friend knows, the UK defence and security industry is the largest in Europe. As the default position, we continue to place contracts on the basis of open competition. EU procurement directives apply to our procurement, which means that EU contractors are eligible to compete for our contracts in the same way as UK and other international companies, other than when we declare an article 346 exemption for warlike stores, which accounts for about 45% of our procurement.

[Official Report, 29 February 2016, Vol. 606, c. 662.]

Letter of correction from Mr Dunne:

An error has been identified in the response I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bath (Ben Howlett) during Questions to the Secretary of State for Defence.

The correct response should have been:

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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As my hon. Friend knows, the UK defence and security industry is the largest in Europe. As the default position, we continue to place contracts on the basis of open competition. EU procurement directives apply to our procurement, which means that EU contractors are eligible to compete for our contracts in the same way as UK and other international companies, other than when we declare an article 346 exemption for warlike stores.

Mesothelioma

The following is an extract from Questions to the Secretary of State for Defence on 29 February 2016.

Chris Heaton-Harris Portrait Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con)
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5. What plans he has to reform compensation for armed forces veterans affected by mesothelioma. (903759)

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 29th February 2016

(5 years ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Mr David Hanson (Delyn) (Lab)
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16. What steps his Department is taking to support British jobs and industry through its procurement process. (903771)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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In the strategic defence and security review published last November, the Ministry of Defence agreed a new strategic objective of contributing to the nation’s prosperity. We do that in many ways, not least through our procurement spend of some £20 billion a year with UK industry, around half of which is in the manufacturing sector. The British defence and security industry is the largest in Europe, and it plays a vital role in delivering battle-winning capabilities for our armed forces. As a Department, we are driving greater innovation into defence procurement, maximising opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses, investing in skills and contributing to a more prosperous economy.

Alison McGovern Portrait Alison McGovern
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I can tell the hon. Lady that I have meetings with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on a monthly basis. In fact, I was in its offices earlier this month. We are constantly looking for better ways to encourage medium-sized and small businesses, in particular, to engage in the Ministry of Defence supply chain, and I am pleased to tell the House that we have confirmed with the Cabinet Office a target of 25% of MOD spend through SMEs, both direct and indirect.

Mr Hanson
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I am happy to try to respond to the right hon. Gentleman, particularly in relation to the specifics that he has raised. About 20% of the steel used in the three offshore patrol vessels has been sourced from UK steel mills. As the prime contractor, BAE Systems issued invitations to 24 companies to tender for the steel contract. Only four were returned, of which only one was from a British contractor. It won the contract to provide steel, which was then sourced from a wide range of suppliers.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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My hon. Friend speaks magnificently not only for his constituents, but for the largest UK defence contractor, whose main centre of engineering innovation is in his constituency. I congratulate him on that and applaud him for it.

Ben Howlett (Bath) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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As my hon. Friend knows, the UK defence and security industry is the largest in Europe. As the default position, we continue to place contracts on the basis of open competition. EU procurement directives apply to our procurement, which means that EU contractors are eligible to compete for our contracts in the same way as UK and other international companies, other than when we declare an article 346 exemption for warlike stores, which accounts for about 45% of our procurement.[Official Report, 2 March 2016, Vol. 606, c. 5MC.]

Ranil Jayawardena Portrait Mr Ranil Jayawardena (North East Hampshire) (Con)
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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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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My hon. Friend might have preferred to put that question to the Secretary of State, who has just visited the Falkland Islands. He is the first United Kingdom Defence Secretary to do so for over a decade. I can confirm to my hon. Friend that, as part of the SDSR conclusions, the Ministry of Defence has committed to investing £180 million in the Falkland Islands, including the improvements he seeks to the accommodation.

Bill Esterson Portrait Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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The hon. Gentleman should have a word with the leader of his party. Government Members care about both security and prosperity, and the hon. Gentleman may like to remind his leader that grandstanding on a Saturday places at risk not only the ultimate security of the nation, but the tens of thousands of jobs and the hundreds of companies in the submarine industry in this country.

Kate Hollern Portrait Kate Hollern (Blackburn) (Lab)
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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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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UK suppliers make a significant contribution to the supply of steel for our defence programmes, including some 94% of the steel in the aircraft carriers—77,000 tonnes—being sourced from UK mills. The Government and I recognise that there is an issue that is affecting steel production in this country. That is why we established the steel procurement working group, on which the Ministry of Defence is represented. I instructed the Department and wrote to our major defence prime contractors last December to ensure that the guidance on steel procurement was implemented across defence. That will enable proactive engagement with the UK steel market on procurement pipelines through the supply chain and ensure that cost calculations can be taken into account over the whole life, and not just at the initial price.

Mr Speaker
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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.

Break in Debate

Nigel Adams Portrait Nigel Adams (Selby and Ainsty) (Con)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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I can confirm to my hon. Friend that in 2013 the Trident alternatives review concluded that no alternative system was as stable, capable or cost-effective as the current Trident-based deterrent. There is no alternative. The part-time deterrents and half-baked measures currently being suggested by some Labour Members could be ruthlessly exploited by our adversaries and would present a real danger to the safety and security of the United Kingdom.

Chris Evans Portrait Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op)
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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)

Break in Debate

Alan Brown Portrait Alan Brown (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
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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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for taking such an interest in the equipment plan, which is a bit of a specialist subject. We will be publishing the next annual iteration of the equipment plan, just as we have done for each of the past three years, and it will demonstrate that there will be an additional £12 billion committed to spending on military equipment over the next 10 years. That will take it up to £178 billion, but he will have to be a bit more patient before he sees how that is allocated.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Break in Debate

Deidre Brock Portrait Deidre Brock (Edinburgh North and Leith) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

All our defence exports to the King of Saudi Arabia or to any other country go through the same rigorous export control system that we have in place. We are proud of that system as it is more rigorous than that of any other country, and that will continue to be the case while this Government are in post.

Suella Braverman Portrait Suella Fernandes (Fareham) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend is very brave to have joined the Royal Marines in the Arctic. I pay tribute to her and her colleagues for doing so. The SDSR is committed to maintaining amphibious capability. We will be making modifications to one of the two Queen Elizabeth carriers to ensure that that persists for the life of that platform.

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

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)

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 18th January 2016

(5 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Defence
Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

The nuclear deterrent is the cornerstone of the UK’s defence security policy. Maintaining continuous at-sea deterrence requires four ballistic nuclear submarines. The UK’s defence nuclear enterprise is gearing up to deliver the Successor replacement to the Vanguard class submarines. It will not only keep Britain safe but support over 30,000 jobs across the UK in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It makes a significant contribution to the UK economy.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend is quite right to highlight the importance of the deterrent to our national security. We have seen—I think he was referring to comments made in the past 24 hours—the most extraordinary contortion emerging from the champagne socialist salons of Islington. The idea of spending tens of billions of pounds to build but not arm a strategic deterrent betrays the new kind of politics from the Labour leadership: a lurch back to the discredited unilateralism of the 1970s and a breathtaking lack of understanding about how to keep this country safe, with consequent threats both to national security and to tens of thousands of jobs across the UK.

Kevan Jones Portrait Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I would like to add my tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s stalwart work, both on the Government Benches when he was a Defence Minister and on the Opposition Benches when he was a shadow Minister; it is a sorry state of affairs to see him sitting right at the back of the Back Benches today.

The hon. Gentleman is, of course, quite right to point out that this is a long-term endeavour: to design and build a nuclear-enabled submarine takes decades. This is a 35-year project from initial conception to commissioning. Those skills not only take a long time to develop; they cannot be switched on and off. They are at the very forefront of engineering capability in this country. Building a nuclear submarine is more difficult than sending a man to the moon.

Lord Davies of Gower Portrait Byron Davies (Gower) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the considered way in which he made the point that this House is here to deliver national security to the United Kingdom as a whole. It is in all our interests to share a common objective to maintain, at the cornerstone of our defence, a continuous at-sea deterrence posture. We very much hope that, when it comes to a vote, colleagues from across the House will be able to recognise the consensus on this issue.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Our deterrent is a NATO asset, so the NATO alliance depends in part on our ability to make that asset available should the need arise. Our NATO allies are taking a very intense interest in the deliberations of this House and the hon. Lady is right to highlight that.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I have already indicated that I think it is completely farcical to spend tens of billions of pounds on a weapon that can never be used and therefore can never fulfil its deterrent objective. I completely agree with my hon. Friend.

Douglas Chapman Portrait Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

In what circumstances does the Minister intend to use the nuclear deterrent?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I think this gets to the heart of the confusion that lies at the centre of Scottish nationalist party policy. The deterrent has been in use every single day—and night—for the last 53 years.

Jake Berry Portrait Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

6. What support the armed forces provided for the response to recent flooding (a) in Lancashire and (b) elsewhere. (903054)

Break in Debate

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

14. What discussions he has had with his US counterpart on the cost, operational capacity and reliability of the F-35 programme. (903063)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

I had a successful bilateral meeting with Bob Work, the US Deputy Secretary of Defence, only last Friday, at which the F-35 programme came up. Aircraft costs are in line with estimates, operational capability is expanding and fleet reliability is improving as more aircraft come on stream and into the programme, and logistic support increases. The aircraft remains on schedule to meet our initial operating capability in December 2018.

Andrew Rosindell Portrait Andrew Rosindell
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The outstanding air-to-ground capability of our Tornado squadrons is being steadily migrated on to the Typhoon platform initially. In November’s SDSR, we secured considerable investment in the RAF combat jet fleets, including the extension of our Tornado squadrons’ out-of-service date to 2018-19, an increase in our Typhoon fleet by two squadrons, and the extension of the Typhoon out-of-service date to 2040. In addition, we reaffirmed our commitment to acquiring a total of 138 F-35s during the life of the programme and buying more aircraft earlier, so that we have 24 F-35 Lightning IIs by 2023.

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

T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (903039)

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen (Salisbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House that this year we do celebrate 100 years of the outstanding research effort at Porton Down, which was first established in response to the threat from chemical weapons during the first world war. Last week, I reported to the House that we have just decided to make the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory an Executive agency, and I am looking forward to visiting next month, when I hope he will be able to join me to thank all the folk who do such a fantastic job there.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Lady is right to identify the fact that precision munitions are costly, but I can reassure her that we are keeping a very close watch on stockpiles and ensuring that we have sufficient missiles in stock to meet our requirements. As the Prime Minister said in this House during the Syria debate, it is absolutely the Government’s intent to press for a rebuilding programme for Syria when this terrible civil war comes to an end.

Mark Garnier Portrait Mark Garnier (Wyre Forest) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Break in Debate

Tom Blenkinsop (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman will be interested in the statement relating to Government measures in connection with British steel that will immediately follow this Question Time. Clearly, we are keen to ensure that British manufacturers have an opportunity to compete for defence contracts with significant steel components, and that will continue to be the case.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

rose—

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

The hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth) can now draw breath.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the credit for establishing the UK Defence Solutions Centre, but I think it is only fair to the House, and indeed to my future career, if I place the credit where it is properly due: at the feet of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, in his former role. I enjoyed our visit to UKDSC last week. It is doing a great job in placing UK innovation at the heart of the defence industrial supply chain globally. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have noted that the strategic defence and security review referred to investing in a unique British capability for advanced high-altitude surveillance, which I know will be of interest to him.

Steven Paterson (Stirling) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As we made crystal clear in the SDSR, we have recalculated the cost of manufacturing the four boats, which we now estimate will be £31 billion, and we have added a £10 billion contingency. We have no intention at this point of replacing the warheads; the decision on that will be taken later. Therefore, I urge the hon. Gentleman to focus on the £31 billion commitment for the submarines, plus the £10 billion contingency, as the cost that is relevant today.

Defence Procurement

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 13th January 2016

(5 years, 1 month ago)

Westminster Hall

Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Defence
Mr Carswell
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Nuttall. It is all too infrequent that we have the opportunity to debate defence matters—and particularly defence procurement—in Westminster Hall, so I am especially grateful to the hon. Member for Clacton (Mr Carswell) for securing the debate, and I congratulate him on doing so. The subject is one of great interest to me, and to him, but of somewhat less obvious interest to other Members. It is a pleasure to see the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) here; he takes a personal interest in the subject on behalf of his constituents and Northern Ireland.

It is a good time to have such a debate, not least because it comes two months after the Government published the gratifyingly well received strategic defence and security review in November. The review was comprehensive and ambitious, and when combined with the Chancellor’s summer Budget announcement it was good news for defence. Defence procurement is central to our plans to deliver our national security objectives, and that was precisely the point on which the hon. Member for Clacton opened his remarks—that the purpose of defence procurement must be to provide the capability for our armed forces to keep us safe. That is the primary duty of Government, as has been recognised in the priority that the Government have given defence and in the reform of defence procurement processes, in which the hon. Gentleman takes such a keen interest.

By giving us an increasing budget, the SDSR will help us to protect our people with more new planes, ships and armoured vehicles over the procurement cycle. It will help promote our prosperity. An additional task for defence—an additional strategic objective—of contributing to the economic prosperity of the country has been emphasised through the SDSR in a way that has not happened before. That has a number of implications for how we go about procurement.

Promoting prosperity provides a stimulus for innovation, which is essential for maintaining technological superiority over our adversaries. It provides the opportunity for the Department to become a champion of small business, which in many respects is where innovation originates. It also allows us to encourage defence exports, which means that we can allow our defence supply chain to be competitive internationally, from which we benefit through our own procurement. All in all that is a good thing, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree as we explore the issue in this debate and on future occasions. We are on the right track. We may not have gone as far as he would like or necessarily as fast as we would like, but in my view we are making great strides.

Before I look to the future and address some of the hon. Gentleman’s comments, it is worth acknowledging the enormous achievements in the previous Parliament. I want to preface my comments on the document prepared by his party, which he referred to and which he has in front of him, by saying that many of the criticisms it makes—in many respects rightly—relate to a period that we are now some way beyond. They relate to the defence industrial strategy that was authored in 2005-06 under the previous Administration, which no longer prevails. Part of the disagreement that there may be between us will be about the extent to which today’s policy has moved on beyond the defence industrial strategy, rather than being grounded in it.

In 2010 we inherited a defence procurement position that was unquestionably unfit for purpose. It was not delivering to time, performance or, above all, cost. That is why, at a time of heightened pressure on the national finances, we had to make some tough decisions. We did not shrink from cancelling overrunning and massively expensive programmes such as the Nimrod MRA4 programme, to which the hon. Gentleman referred in his remarks. We embarked on the most radical series of defence reforms in decades, and I am pleased to say that those reforms meant that defence ended the last Parliament in a markedly better state than it began it in.

The National Audit Office’s major projects report for 2015, which was published before the end of last year and covered the most recently available material we had, recorded a fall of £247 million in the forecast cost of defence projects—the second successive year of reductions in the major projects it reviewed. That compares with a £1.2 billion in-year cost overrun reported for 2009 by the NAO in its major projects report.

The 2015 report builds on the success of the 2014 report, which reported the best cost performance since 2005 and the best time performance since 2001. That is powerful evidence of how far we were able to progress in improving performance during the previous Parliament. Indeed, Lord Levene of Portsoken said in his 2014 report on the Department as a whole that,

“a leopard really can change its spots”—

rare praise indeed from Lord Levene.

If I may reflect on the comments of the hon. Member for Clacton and the document to which he referred, we recognised the glaring inadequacies of the defence industrial strategy of 2005-06. That was why we determined to overturn it in a White Paper published in 2012, “National Security Through Technology”, which set out our thinking on industrial policy. It replaced outdated concepts of industrial sovereignty at any cost with a much more nuanced approach, saying that the sole aim of defence procurement was to equip our armed forces with the best capabilities we could afford at the best value for money. That meant putting an end to unaffordable gold-plated requirements and instead increasingly buying things off the shelf, from the global market where possible and appropriate.

“National Security Through Technology” highlighted the benefits of working with other countries, as the hon. Gentleman seeks to do, to open up each other’s defence markets and, where we share requirements, collaborate on international acquisition programmes. The best live example of that new way of collaborating on procurement is the F-35 programme—the largest defence procurement programme in the world ever. Eleven nations are pooling their demand signal to provide as large an order as possible to the contractor consortium—at the moment in annual buys, but in the future it will be multi-year buys. That order is for three different variants of the aircraft type, but it is essentially the same aircraft type for each customer, in order to avoid the bespoking that, as the hon. Gentleman said, becomes so expensive in defence procurement. We are already doing that, and we are doing it in a big way.

The White Paper also recognised that defence procurement is different from other procurement, so for some aspects of capability, we still need to take special measures to maintain our operational advantage and freedom of action, but we stated that those would become the exception rather than the rule.

Having pointed out some of the areas where we agree with the hon. Gentleman’s critique, I will have to disappoint him by saying that I do not see the document prepared by his party as a valid critique of today’s policy and the important work that has been done over the past five years. The White Paper that we published heralded a series of sweeping reforms to defence procurement, which went hand in hand with the much-needed reforms we made to the wider Ministry of Defence. We adopted the proposals outlined by Lord Levene to overhaul the structure and management of the Ministry of Defence. We have thereby created a much leaner, more strategic head office, devolved responsibility and accountability to the single services and, crucially, stood up a Joint Forces Command to look after cross-cutting areas such as helicopters and ISTAR—intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance. Far from being dominated by single service rivalry, the Department is now more joined up than at any time in its history. That was amply demonstrated by how we handled defence’s contribution to the SDSR, with virtually no trace of the behaviours that had so coloured the exercise five years before.

Nowhere has the extent of our transformation been more ambitious than in our procurement entity, Defence Equipment and Support. DE&S provides vital support to the armed forces, without which they simply could not operate, and I pay tribute to the civilian and military staff employed in that endeavour for their dedication. Re-formed as a bespoke trading entity in April 2014, DE&S now has the freedom to make the changes needed to transform it into a world-class acquisition organisation. DE&S staff numbers have already reduced by around 18,000 since 2007 and, through transformation, we will continue to professionalise it and focus on the people and skills we need.

Mr Carswell
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Of those 18,000 people, how many have been re-hired in a contractor or arm’s length capacity?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an exact number, but some of the activities previously held within DE&S have been outsourced. One example is the operation of the Royal Navy operating bases, which had, for some historical reason, been managed within DE&S. That has now gone back to the Navy, so those jobs by and large remain, but a large number of the 18,000 are a reduction in individual roles, to become more efficient.

Turning to how we obtain equipment, it is not as simple as making direct comparisons with other nations’ defence procurement models. Structures, roles, operational commitments and, consequently, equipment needs vary. For the past three years we have published a comprehensive and fully costed 10-year forward-looking equipment plan that takes account of our defence priorities and the capabilities needed to support them.

Our £178 billion investment in equipment over the next decade will support all three services, including committing to the F-35 joint strike fighter, which I have mentioned, and to new maritime patrol aircraft. Incidentally, we have decided that those aircraft should be procured off the shelf, to take advantage of the existing production line in the United States, to maximise interoperability with the United States and the other allies that will be procuring that capability, and to minimise bespoking, so that the cost is as plain vanilla as it can be. Through the equipment programme, we will also invest heavily in the Navy through the Type 26 frigates and in the Army through forming the new strike brigades with its equipment, which will be state-of-the-art.

Mr Carswell
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Excellent.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

That will allow us to acquire the capability we need, with minimal costly bespoking, in the timescale required. The hon. Gentleman has just indicated from a sedentary position that he supports those initiatives.

We share the hon. Gentleman’s view that protectionism is not good for defence or for the UK in the long term, not because we do not want to support British industry—we do—but because we recognise that protectionism provides no lasting solution. It does not give us the capabilities we need when we need them, at a price we can afford. Above all, it does not help industry. It stifles innovation, saps productivity and suppresses competitiveness.

That is why we focus on competitive procurement, with one of the most open defence markets in the world. It is why, for example, we decided to procure the new fleet of Royal Fleet Auxiliary tankers from South Korea, which the hon. Gentleman touched on in his remarks. The fleet will come into operation later this year and draws on key British technology, with some 25% of the supply chain for the vessels coming from the UK. There is still a strong UK component to an international procurement, demonstrating that having an open defence market helps to sustain a competitive defence industry in this country.

We recognised that we needed to reset the relationship with industry, particularly on the large single-source projects of which the hon. Gentleman is so critical. For that reason, we used the Defence Reform Act 2014 to reform single-source procurement. It established a statutory governance framework to ensure that costs are fair to us and to our suppliers. We have also set up the Single Source Regulations Office as an independent review body, and it has now been operational for 12 months. No longer will suppliers have carte blanche to set the terms of the trade. We believe that that will help to address the hon. Gentleman’s concern about defence inflation by imposing a much greater spotlight of transparency on individual single-source contractors and the bill invoices they submit, which we think will put downward pressure on inflationary pressures.

I point out gently to the hon. Gentleman that some of the cost comparisons in his party’s document confuse different things, often comparing apples with pears by not taking into account some of the additional costs that appear when we procure in the UK, other than on an off-the-shelf basis. We tend to include the cost of support, training and simulators alongside the cost of the capital equipment itself, which can often distort a like-for-like comparison with an off-the-shelf purchase.

Question put and agreed to.

Trident

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Tuesday 24th November 2015

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Kirsten Oswald Portrait Kirsten Oswald
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

I am pleased to be able to follow the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Kirsten Oswald). I believe that she was making her debut in winding up a debate on behalf of her party, and I congratulate her on that. As she said, this has been a well-informed and at times passionate debate, and rightly so, because the strategic deterrent forms a key part of the Government’s No. 1 priority: the defence of the realm.

The Government are committed to maintaining a minimum credible and assured deterrent, as was clearly stated in the manifesto on which they were elected to govern the whole of the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady argued that we should respect the wishes of the Scottish people, and we should indeed take them into account, but that is the same argument as was advanced by the then leader of the Greater London Council when he declared London to be a nuclear-free zone. No nuclear weapon would have been allowed in this country had his views been entirely respected. That is not an argument that we can respect, because we have responsibility for the government of the United Kingdom as a whole.

We are committed to building four new nuclear-armed submarines to replace the current four Vanguard class submarines, but not to replacing the Trident missile, which is the notional subject of the debate. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins), the subject of the debate is not, strictly speaking, what is at stake today, because what we are actually discussing is whether or not to replace the submarine class, rather than the missile system.

Why do we stand by our commitment? First, as the Secretary of State said, this is about being realistic. We do not live in an ideal world, much as we might wish to. Our deterrent is there to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life. Those threats have not gone away, however much people might wish it were otherwise. The national security review which was published yesterday shows that, if anything, they are growing and becoming more complex and more diverse by the day.

Under the coalition Government, we as a nation took steps to reduce nuclear arsenals, and we have reduced the number of deployed warheads on each submarine from 48 to 40. Other nations with nuclear weapons have not responded to that unilateral action. They need to follow our example, and nations without nuclear weapons should end all notions of obtaining them. Those who wish to gamble with the nation’s security do so with no ability to predict what the world might be like in decades to come.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am afraid that I have very little time.

Secondly, our deterrent works for us every day, for 365 days and nights each year, thanks to the brave service of so many of our valiant personnel serving on the Vanguard class submarines—and, indeed, the husband of the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), whom she mentioned earlier. I believe that he has now retired from the Royal Navy, but I respect the service that he gave.

The fact that we have a continuous at-sea deterrent sows the seeds of doubt in the minds of our potential adversaries. As was emphasised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Tom Tugendhat) in a powerful speech, continuous at-sea deterrence works because it provides the ability to strike back. It also provides another decision-making centre in the NATO alliance, and complicates and confuses an enemy’s calculations.

Finally, there is no alternative. Notwithstanding the recollection of my friend and former colleague the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael), the 2013 Trident Alternatives Review made it very clear that if we were to have a cost-effective way of delivering the minimum nuclear deterrent, Successor was the only viable solution. Moreover, the ramifications of removing our deterrent would be immense, putting at risk not just our national security and our position in NATO—the cornerstone of our defence—but our economy, our essential skills base, and thousands of jobs across the United Kingdom.

Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am about to respond to some of the comments that have been made today. Before I answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, I want to deal with the fantasy figures presented by the SNP’s defence spokesman, the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara), who had conjured up from nowhere the idea that if the nuclear deterrent ceased to exist, Scotland would benefit by some £15 billion as a result of not spending money on it. The cost of replacing the Vanguard class with the Successor class is, as identified clearly in yesterday’s document, £31 billion spread over decades—over some 30 years—so the idea of a much larger figure is not correct.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

No, I am afraid I will not give way.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s apparent admission that in the event that the deterrent was to be decommissioned, Scotland would take its share of the nuclear decommissioning risk and location of nuclear material. That is very welcome indeed and is in stark contrast to the responses we have had from the Scottish Government to the disposal project currently in consultation.

The hon. Gentleman also indicated no willingness to acknowledge there is any potential threat from nuclear-empowered nations. He was challenged and signally failed to provide an answer as to what the potential threat might be from Russia, despite the fact that every time there is an incursion into either air or sea space approximate to our national territorial waters SNP Members are the first to jump up and ask what we are doing about it. It seems that they have, as so often, double standards. Finally, I point out to the hon. Gentleman that there has been no increase in nuclear weaponry in this country—far from it; nuclear weapons numbers have declined.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield gave a thoughtful speech from a somewhat confused party position. On the governance of implementing a delivery organisation to make sure we deliver the Successor programme on time and to budget over the years to come, I can confirm that this will remain subject to oversight by the MOD. We are in the process of working out how we best learn the lessons of delivering major procurement projects like Aircraft Carrier Alliance to get the industry properly aligned, and the Ministry and the delivery organisations currently within DE&S properly aligned, to work in partnership to deliver this vital programme.

Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State have made clear, this will be reporting through the MOD structures to the Secretary of State, and of course the Treasury will take its interest in the delivery of major programmes as it does in all our category A programmes, of which this will obviously be the largest.

We have had contributions from a number of Members across the House, and they have been well-recognised already. I do not have time to thank Members for contributing, but I would just say by way of conclusion that it was welcome to see consensus between most of the contributions of the Official Opposition and the contributions from the Government Benches. I recognise that many who stood up have done so with courage in speaking of their belief in the vital importance of our strategic deterrence, some despite the appalling provocations and bigoted comments from the former Mayor of London, who has allegedly been appointed by the Leader of the Opposition, without the courtesy of informing the shadow Defence Secretary, to, as we heard today, co-convene a Labour review of the strategic deterrent.

The hon. Member for Chesterfield did his best, but even he was unable to make clear what this review is for, who is in charge and what difference it will make. Heaven knows what will emerge from the review—we might get a clue from the vote imminently—but I was astonished to learn from the Opposition spokesman that he does not regard it as appropriate to vote on this motion in Parliament today. I say to those Labour Members who share my concern to maintain continuous at-sea deterrence, “Let your conscience guide you into the right Division Lobby this afternoon.” I urge Members of both sides of the House to do the right thing for the whole of the UK, not just for today but for tomorrow, and restore the consensus that has kept us safe for decades.

Question put.

Oral Answers to Questions

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Monday 23rd November 2015

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Ministry of Defence
Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

1. What steps he is taking to ensure that the UK defence industry benefits from his Department’s procurement decisions. (902257)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

The strategic defence and security review will shortly set out for the hon. Gentleman and the House how we will invest more in bigger and stronger defence for Britain. The British defence industry plays a vital role in delivering more planes, ships, armoured vehicles and battle-winning capabilities for our armed forces. We are looking at how we can drive greater innovation into defence procurement, maximise the use of small and medium-sized enterprises, and ensure that investment decisions contribute to a more dynamic and productive economy.

Nick Smith Portrait Nick Smith
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As with all major defence equipment programmes, the contractors determine the materials, which includes sourcing steel on the basis of competitive cost, time and quality. In 2010, no UK steel manufacturer was able to meet the prime contractor’s requirements, so no UK bids to supply steel for the Ajax programme were forthcoming. I can confirm for the hon. Gentleman, who takes a great deal of interest in this matter because the Ajax vehicles, after the 100th vehicle, will be assembled in Merthyr Tydfil, next to his constituency, that some 2,700 tonnes of steel—about 30% of the total requirement —remains open to competition, and that a competition is under way to supply sets of training armour that is open to applications from UK firms.

Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

My hon. Friend is an experienced Member of the House and it will not be lost on him that after Defence questions, we have a statement from the Prime Minister, who I am quite sure will be able to address the question that he has just posed to me.

Lord Walney Portrait John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding the House that on Thursday last week, I accompanied him to his constituency to recognise the signature of the contract for the fifth Astute boat, Anson. It was good to be able to thank many of his constituents who have been involved in its construction. With regard to the investment decision for Successor, I think that that subject will come up shortly.

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The Ministry of Defence is participating in the working group that was established last month by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General. Although steel is clearly a significant and important component in much defence manufacturing, the steel involved in all our current major programmes represented less than 1.5% of the steel manufactured in this country in 2013. Relatively speaking, although defence is important, it is a small contributor to the total steel output of this country.

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

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Lady may recall that the programme she refers to, which was commissioned by the previous Labour Government, was more than £1 billion over-budget. It was reduced in scale by that Government to nine aircraft—more than half what was originally procured—and the prototype aircraft that was produced had more defects than any previous aircraft in production. We were not sure whether it would ever fly. That was the right decision to take at the time, and now it is the right decision —if the Prime Minister is about to announce it—to have a replacement capability. We will have to hear when that will be available.

Maria Eagle Portrait Maria Eagle
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am sorry to have to disappoint the hon. Lady. It is now twenty to 3, so she must be a little more patient and see what the Prime Minister announces in his statement later this afternoon. I am quite sure that she will be in her place to hear it.

Douglas Chapman Portrait Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

2. What his policy is on the role of the UK in the security of the Arctic and High North. (902258)

Break in Debate

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

10. What his policy is on ensuring the use of UK-produced steel in items procured by his Department. (902266)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

Steel is sourced by our contractors from a range of UK and international suppliers, reflecting the need to ensure a competitive price and delivery at the required time and quality. UK suppliers have provided significant quantities of steel for major defence equipment procurement programmes, whenever they have been able to meet specified standards. Our new Government guidelines, published last month, will help UK steel suppliers to compete effectively with international suppliers for major projects, including those in defence.

Grahame Morris Portrait Grahame M. Morris
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that the steel that is specified needs to be the steel that can do the job. We are open-minded about who can supply that, but we are adopting the new Government guidelines. For the offshore patrol vessels, some 20% of the requirement—about 775 tonnes—was sourced through UK steel mills.

Kelvin Hopkins
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

That is why the Government have set up the steel procurement working group, chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office. The Ministry of Defence is sitting on that group. We are seeking to ensure that future orders are open to UK firms to tender.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

In accordance with your strictures, Mr Speaker, the answer to that question is yes.

Toby Perkins Portrait Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the Type 26 procurement programme as the next major platform where there will be a significant steel component. We are determined, as a Government who are keen to support our steel industry, that defence contractors will have the opportunity to source that steel from the UK, and we will do as much as we can to help them in that endeavour.

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

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)

Break in Debate

Seema Kennedy (South Ribble) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

We expect small businesses to take an increasing share of our increasing defence budget, as they provide a vital source of innovation and flexibility in meeting defence and security requirements. In October, we announced a new target to increase the proportion of Ministry of Defence procurement spent with SMEs to 25% by the end of this Parliament. That target is 10% higher than the one that was set during the last Parliament.

Pauline Latham Portrait Pauline Latham
- Hansard - - Excerpts

What role are SMEs playing in the Trident replacement programme—for example, in the Rolls-Royce propulsion supply chain?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

The Successor submarine programme will be one of the Department’s largest projects, and we expect about 850 suppliers across the UK to be involved. They will employ thousands of people in what is a very high-skilled domain, using cutting-edge technology. That will include the supply chain for Rolls-Royce nuclear propulsion systems based at Raynesway. Many of those companies will be SMEs, and I am sure that many of them will be from my hon. Friend’s constituency in Derby.

Seema Kennedy
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

I pay tribute to the workforce in Lancashire, especially in view of the work that they will do in contributing to every single one of the F-35s. That is the largest defence procurement programme on the globe. Further particulars about the innovation fund will be announced in due course, and some may even be announced in the next hour.

Phil Wilson (Sedgefield) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

What difference would the renewal of Trident make to the defence supply chain?

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

As I have just indicated to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Seema Kennedy), the Successor submarine programme will be the largest UK procurement of military capability for decades to come. That will filter through; I have referred to the 850 suppliers that we think will be participating, but the number may be greater than that. It will be an enormous programme that will last for many years and sustain thousands of jobs across the breadth of the country.

Paul Scully Portrait Paul Scully (Sutton and Cheam) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

12. What plans he has to strengthen the armed forces covenant. (902268)

Break in Debate

John Glen Portrait John Glen (Salisbury) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
- Hansard -

We fully recognise the importance of innovation, and DSTL does vital work with industry and academia in leading science and technology initiatives to provide capability advantages for our armed forces. We expect it to continue to do so, including through the support it gives the university technical college and the proposed Porton Down science park in my hon. Friend’s constituency.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Break in Debate

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Again, this is another occasion on which I have to tell the hon. Lady that she will have to wait for a few moments to be enlightened by the Prime Minister. What I can say is that, in the event that an MPA were to be procured as part of the P-8 programme, some billion dollars’ worth of the programme is supplied by British companies.

Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - Excerpts

Time for the good doctor again. I call Dr Julian Lewis.

Break in Debate

Stephen Hammond Portrait Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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)

Philip Dunne Portrait Mr Dunne
- Hansard -

Yes, as I have already said, I was delighted last Thursday to announce, in Barrow, the £1.3 billion contract to complete the build of the fifth Astute-class submarine. We will save money for the taxpayer and deliver the submarine ahead of the schedule of the previous one, and we are on track.

Dan Jarvis Portrait Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central) (Lab)
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Electrical Shore Supplies (Nuclear-powered Submarines)

Philip Dunne Excerpts
Wednesday 18th November 2015

(5 years, 3 months ago)

Westminster Hall

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Ministry of Defence
Brendan O'Hara Portrait Brendan O’Hara
- Hansard - - Excerpts

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.

Philip Dunne Portrait The Minister for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne)
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Thank you for chairing these proceedings, Ms Buck. I congratulate the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) on securing the debate, and I thank him for giving me an opportunity to address this issue, which I agree is important. It is appropriate that we have an opportunity to discuss it in the House.

I appreciate that the safety of nuclear-powered submarines has been and continues to be a subject of interest not just in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency in the immediate proximity of our submarine base, but to everyone in the United Kingdom. The Vanguard-class strategic ballistic missile submarines, along with the majority of the Royal Navy’s attack submarines, are based at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and the whole operating Royal Navy submarine fleet will be based there by 2020. Clyde is one of the largest employment sites in Scotland, with about 6,800 military and civilian jobs, which will increase to about 8,200 by 2022. I pay tribute to the hard-working people who man and maintain Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde to support the Royal Navy submarine fleet based there.

The hon. Gentleman expressed the concern that the workforce have about their jobs at the site. What I have just said reinforces the decisions taken under the previous Government. The primary threat to the jobs of those working at HMNB Clyde is from the proposals of the hon. Gentleman’s party and the Scottish Government, rather than from this Government and the work that we intend to place there. However, I listened carefully to his speech and will endeavour to address the points that he raised.

I am sure the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, despite his suspicions to the contrary—I know he knows this privately—there are certain aspects of the operation of submarine nuclear reactors that I cannot discuss owing to security considerations. That is not a fig leaf; it is real. I am sure that no hon. Members would wish the security of the fleet to be compromised. Having said that, I will provide as full a response as I am able to on the issues that he raised. Before I do so, I would like briefly to set in context the Government’s policy for the safe and secure operation of nuclear-powered submarines.

The protection and defence of the whole of the United Kingdom and our dependent territories and citizens is the primary responsibility of Government. In a world that is becoming more uncertain, as we have seen in the actions of a resurgent Russia, the Government are committed to maintaining a strong and capable fleet of attack and strategic ballistic missile submarines and the continuous at-sea nuclear deterrence that provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security. In speaking today of our submarine fleet, I would like to take the opportunity—I am sure that all hon. Members would echo this, whatever their personal views on the merits of the nuclear deterrent—to thank the crews of all our submarines, their families and the wider community for their continued dedication and commitment to delivering the mission.

I turn to the points raised by the hon. Gentleman. I want to make it absolutely clear that safety is our priority. Although operating a nuclear reactor in the submarine environment provides unique challenges compared with doing so in the civil sector, the rigorous safety measures that we adopt ensure that submarine reactors remain safe at all times. The safety of reactors is rigorously assessed at every stage of their life, from design and build to operation and disposal. Safety is independently regulated in accordance with the law and by our own Ministry of Defence independent nuclear regulator. Together, those regulators impose robust controls that are at least as stringent as those in the civil sector. We are also held to account by external regulators and, ultimately, here in Parliament.

In Scotland, radioactive substances are regulated by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. A memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Defence and the SEPA includes provisions that enable the agency to carry out its regulatory role effectively while ensuring that sensitive information is properly protected. Similar arrangements are in place with the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

I trust that what I have said will reassure hon. Members that our submarine nuclear reactor operations are subject to independent, impartial and robust regulation. Any suggestion to the contrary is, quite frankly, wrong. As I have said, I am constrained by security considerations in the details that I can discuss, but I can say that the Ministry of Defence regularly and routinely reviews the procedures regulating the operation and maintenance of submarine nuclear reactors. That process naturally includes consultation with industry partners and regulators, but no change can be implemented until it is proved to be safe and, where applicable, has been approved by the relevant regulatory authorities.

Regarding the hon. Gentleman’s specific concern, it may be helpful if I explain that submarine reactors have a diverse range of cooling systems, including a dedicated system that is not dependent on electrical supplies. As I have previously informed the House in answer to a question from the right hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), there have been only four events in the past 20 years involving the loss of electrical power to a submarine reactor cooling system when in port. In all four events, there was no disruption to reactor cooling as a result of the loss of electrical supplies.

That is the measure of the safety of our submarine nuclear reactors. It is simply not the case that a disruption of the electrical shore supply to a submarine will inevitably and rapidly lead to the submarine’s reactor becoming unsafe. It is quite wrong, and indeed alarmist, to suggest otherwise. Any proposals to change reactor operating procedures must be seen in that context. The Ministry of Defence would never propose a change that could lead to a reduction in reactor safety. Were we to do so, any such change would simply not pass regulatory scrutiny.

What I have said may raise in the minds of some hon. Members the question of why submarines require a shore electrical supply and why, if the los