Procurement (North-west)

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19 March 2001.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Liverpool, Garston 12:00, 19 March 2001

How many jobs were (a) created and (b) sustained as a result of procurement decisions in the north-west since 1997. [152712]

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

It is estimated that 350,000 jobs are dependent on defence expenditure and equipment exports. Over 60,000 new contracts are placed each year. The Ministry of Defence does not record the number of jobs created or sustained as a result of each individual procurement decision, but it is estimated that a substantial number of jobs in the north-west of England depend directly on defence equipment expenditure by the Ministry of Defence, and that many more will be created as a result of our recent procurement decisions.

Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Liverpool, Garston

Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the Eurofighter is important to the future effectiveness of the RAF, it is also important to the future of the economy of the north-west, where it is sustaining and creating thousands of jobs? Will he assure me that, unlike the Conservative party, he will remain committed to the project?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

I am happy to give that absolute assurance. Hopefully, the development of the A400M will mean a long-term future for employment in the aircraft industry in the area for many years.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson Conservative, Ruislip - Northwood

Are not the defence industries in the north-west, as elsewhere, important not just for jobs but for improving the technological base of industry as a whole? Will the Minister—in the words of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—seek to be helpful to the United States in regard to any research programme, development and, ultimately, work that could ensue from ballistic missile defence?

Photo of Dr Lewis Moonie Dr Lewis Moonie Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Ministry of Defence) (Veterans)

Perhaps the best example I can give of a tangible project with which we are dealing, as opposed to the fantasy to which the hon. Gentleman refers—at present, anyway— [Interruption.] If we could have fewer moronic remarks from Opposition Front Benchers, I might be able to answer their hon. Friend's question.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are determined to pursue the development of the joint strike fighter, with collaboration from companies in the United States. The project should provide a promising aircraft for our future needs.