UK Defence Industry

Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th June 2018.

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Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale 12:00 am, 11th June 2018

What steps he is taking to support the UK defence industry.

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

We are committed to supporting a thriving and internationally competitive defence sector. We have published our national shipbuilding strategy and refreshed our defence industrial policy, and we are developing a combat air strategy. In March, the Defence Secretary announced he had invited my hon. Friend Mr Dunne to conduct a review of the defence contribution to prosperity, and I look forward to the publication of that report shortly.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Labour, Weaver Vale

The fleet solid support ship contract said that there would be the potential to bring jobs and work to shipyards across the UK. Does the Minister not agree that those ships should be built in Britain, and will he make this a UK-only competition?

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I have consistently argued that the national shipbuilding strategy should be supported across the House, as it offers real support for our shipbuilding industry. We designate warships as a sovereign capability to be built in the UK. Other ships are open to international competition, but I am confident that there will be British yards putting in bids for that work.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

When considering a replacement for the RAF’s airborne warning and control system fleet, will the Minister commit to holding an open competition so that bids from all defence partners—from the UK as well as abroad—can be considered? Will he also consider whether Sentry and Sentinel may in future be replaced by one aircraft type?

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend is well known for his championing of issues to do with the Royal Air Force. It is important to say that the Ministry of Defence is currently going through a process of considering the replacement for that capability, and we are also considering the situation with regard to Sentinel moving forward. A decision will be made in due course, and he will be informed at that point.

Photo of Frank Field Frank Field Chair, Work and Pensions Committee

When the Minister sits down after this series of questions, will he remind the Secretary of State, who I see is not listening, that he has been to a number of yards that will compete with Cammell Laird, but not to Cammell Laird itself? When he is deciding on the shipbuilding programme, he needs to be seen to be fair as well as awarding us orders.

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. The process will be seen to be fair, because it will be fair. This is a real commitment that we are providing to the shipbuilding sector. We are absolutely committed to it, and we have adopted the shipbuilding strategy. I hope that he will have confidence in the process.

Photo of Vicky Ford Vicky Ford Conservative, Chelmsford

Engineers in Great Baddow in Chelmsford have been designing world-class radar systems for generations. Will the Minister take into account local skills and jobs when awarding the next contract, to make sure that British capabilities are not compromised?

Photo of Guto Bebb Guto Bebb The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence

My hon. Friend makes an important point about taking into account the whole contribution made to our economy when a contract is awarded. She will be interested in the new Treasury Green Book and also in some of the conclusions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow in his report on prosperity.