Arms Sales

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 14th March 2005.

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Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Labour, Birmingham, Erdington 2:30 pm, 14th March 2005

What steps the Department takes to promote British arms sales overseas.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

The Ministry of Defence provides a high standard of support to legitimate defence exports. In recent years, it has helped the UK defence industry to win orders worth, on average, some £5 billion annually. Major achievements last year included the contract for the sale of Hawk aircraft to India and last month, the US101—a version of the well-established AgustaWestland EH101—won the competition to replace the current US presidential helicopters. The defence ministerial team has played an important part in helping the industry to win these orders.

Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Labour, Birmingham, Erdington

I thank the Minister for his answer and the Department for its support for British manufacturing, which can surely use all the help that it can get. However, a prerequisite of securing export orders is often that the contract first be given by the MOD—a point that is particularly true in respect of larger contracts involving newer products. I ask the Minister to reassure my constituents and me that—just as the French and the Americans always strive to buy home-grown products—wherever possible, the MOD will buy British products rather than foreign ones, because buying British is also the way to sell overseas.

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

I did cite two very good examples of the great benefits of such major procurements, not just in terms of what the companies in question have delivered for our armed forces, but of our ability then to market those products internationally. The same point applies to the Typhoon, although I know that other parties oppose our efforts in that regard. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats, who are probably the prime opponents, totally oppose such efforts to sell British industry abroad. My hon. Friend has raised an important point, and we are putting every effort into ensuring that we continue to get the best equipment on time, and for the best value. We believe that British industry has the capacity to do that, and we will assist it in selling those products on.

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Shadow Minister (Treasury)

The Minister will be aware that there has been an adverse reaction in America to the lifting of the arms embargo on China. The Americans are strengthening their buy America policy, which is having an alarming effect on the aerospace industry in this country. Many companies in my constituency are concerned that, without their American orders, they cannot continue as viable companies. Can the Government do anything to pressure America to adopt a fair policy on orders from the UK?

Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram Minister of State (Armed Forces), Ministry of Defence

The embargo has not been lifted. There is a wide-ranging debate about that matter and all the issues must be fully taken into account. On access to the US market, I pointed out in my first answer that we have been successful in respect of the American EH101 equivalent helicopter. That provides one good example and we are also very much involved in the future joint strike fighter project. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that major paybacks will come from that, not just in respect of manufacture, but in the potential for research and development.