We believe that defence contractors are better placed than Government to identify new products and uses for their facilities. We do share with industry as much information as we can about our long-term defence requirements to help it to adjust its industrial capacities.
That reply shows the Government's utter contempt for the workers and skills employed in defence-product manufacture in this country. Why do not the Government establish a defence diversification agency to enable and to aid firms to diversify into the public sector? Without such an agency, high-tech skills in the defence industry will be lost for ever.
I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman's sentiments, but there is a different way of achieving the aim that he and I share. I do not believe that there is any evidence from the United States of America that using Government money, federal funds in the case of the United States, achieves a quicker or better solution than the private sector deciding what to produce. The right way, therefore, to deal with previous military facilities and with workshops, for example, that are no longer required is for the Government to ensure that all the agencies of central Government and local government, including local representatives from that community, work together for an alternative use. I will give the hon. Gentleman and the House an assurance that, where I am involved in such closures, I shall commit my time to ensuring that there is a sensible, alternative private use.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has already said, it is a matter for the President of the Board of Trade, who will make a decision about the offer by British Aerospace and GEC for VSEL. Competition is important in the provision of defence equipment and we shall do everything possible to encourage and facilitate competitive tenders for defence equipment, which represent the best way of achieving value for money.