Agreements that secured work in the UK were really important. Where there are lessons to be learned from how those agreements were put in place, we should learn them, but the current Government have turned their backs on this whole approach and that is a cause for considerable alarm. At a time when the Prime Minister and the Business Secretary are talking about reforming the Government’s overall procurement process to try to encourage more jobs here in the UK and to protect supply chains, I hope that such an approach will be meaningfully reflected in a rethink by the Ministry of Defence and in its forthcoming White Paper.
Whatever the balance of responsibility between Government and suppliers for ensuring that the current crisis is addressed and the future set more securely, we need to remember that it is not just the economic implications for areas that are important—as, indeed, they are—because what happens affects our ability to protect our country and support the front line. I have gone around and talked to companies and small businesses that are part of the supply chain about how they have been able to speed up getting vital equipment to troops on the front line for urgent operational requirements in Afghanistan. If our industrial base shrinks and we end up knocking on the door of foreign companies when we know we need new kit to ensure that we can have an edge on the battlefield, we will not have anything like the same level of guarantee that we will be able to accomplish that.
Finally, in an uncertain world, we simply cannot know what our defence requirements are going to be in decades ahead. It could significantly increase the nation’s vulnerability if we allow our prized industrial base to shrink from here.