Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:12 pm on 19th March 2012.

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Photo of Mark Prisk Mark Prisk The Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills 10:12 pm, 19th March 2012

All the Royal Navy’s current warships are built in the United Kingdom. Scotland has a strong and skilled defence sector, and it would make strong bids, but if Scotland were not part of the United Kingdom, the sector would clearly be pitching for business in what is a very competitive international market. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House understand that.

Let me say something about the points raised by the hon. Member for Glasgow North West about BAE Systems’ shipyard work. Like the future implications for the yards, those issues are a matter for the company. The Ministry of Defence has made it clear that it expects the BAE Systems maritime naval ships terms of business agreement to provide a strong foundation for it to compete for non-MOD work, both here and abroad, but it is for the company to retain the capacity that it deems necessary to meet the demands made of it, and to transform the sector as it feels appropriate.

What the Government will do is ensure that the United Kingdom provides an economic and business environment within which businesses, shipbuilding or otherwise, can flourish. The defence White Paper, which was published on 1 February, explains how we will promote exports related to defence and security—for example, by ensuring, when we work with industry, that export potential is considered at an earlier stage. All too often in the past Governments have not done that properly, regardless of their political persuasions.

Let me say something about the MARS programme. In the context of the fleet tankers, the hon. Gentleman referred to speculation in reports about remarks attributed to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend Peter Luff. I can confirm that those remarks were wrongly attributed, and that my hon. Friend did not make them.

I share the hon. Gentleman’s frustration about the fact that no UK contractor bid for the final contract, but the Government cannot force contractors to bid. We are not in that position, nor should we be.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned previous commitments involving warlike vessels, but these are not warlike vessels. The commitment to which he alluded—that complex Royal Navy warships will continue to be built in UK shipyards—remains. I hope that that gives him some comfort.