Equipment Expenditure

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th March 1997.

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Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury 12:00 am, 11th March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of the defence budget in the next three years he plans to spend on defence equipment. [18042]

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

Expenditure on equipment in the current financial year is estimated to be 39 per cent. of the defence budget. On current plans, this percentage will increase steadily over the next three years.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury

Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Amphenol in my constituency on being the largest and most successful manufacturer of electrical connectors for the defence industry throughout Europe? Does not this go beyond the constituency point? Are not companies such as Amphenol playing a vital part in maintaining our defence base? Would not Labour's threatened defence review, which would turn companies' plans and their tooling up and design capability upside down, be just as bad for the companies concerned as it would be for the armed forces?

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning Amphenol, which is a valued supplier to the Ministry of Defence. We are delighted with the work that it has done for us. We have plans under a Conservative Government to increase spending on major defence equipment by 15 per cent. by the year 2000. That would be put at risk if it were not exempted from the strategic defence review proposed by the Opposition. Unless they can say that the Brimstone missile, the Storm Shadow missile and the Nimrod 2000 aeroplane will be exempt from the review, those projects will all be at risk. Britain cannot take that risk. We know not only that we cannot trust Labour on defence, but that the entire country cannot trust Labour on defence.

Photo of Rachel Squire Rachel Squire , Dunfermline West

It is clear that the future of Britain's defence industry is at risk. I draw attention to the letter in the Financial Times this morning from senior industrialists, including the chief executive of British Aerospace, in which they express their concerns about the consequences of the Government's policies for industry, especially in their approach to Europe and the single market. Does the Minister agree that during the lifetime of the Government, the number of jobs in Britain's defence industry has halved, the Government's contribution has been cut by a third, the industry's success has been due to the industry, in spite of the Government's attempts to wreck it and the Government's— [Interruption]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I have noticed today that responses from Ministers have been inordinately long. The hon. Lady will be heard in the House. Come to a conclusion, Ms Squire, but your final words will be heard. Come on.

Photo of Rachel Squire Rachel Squire , Dunfermline West

Thank you, Madam Speaker—and the Government's refusal to work in partnership with the defence industry and draw up a strategy for a secure and long-term future?

Photo of James Arbuthnot James Arbuthnot Minister of State (Ministry of Defence) (Procurement)

No. The reason I do not agree is that the success of British industry has been shown by the fact that we have been able to take 25 per cent. of the world market share in the past year. That has been due to the competitive policies pursued by the Government, and to the fact that the Government and British industry have worked together to ensure that we succeed in exports. It is also due to the fact that we have privatised defence industry—privatisation that has been opposed every step of the way by the Labour party.