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Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:49 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence) 7:49 pm, 13th January 2020

The right hon. Gentleman makes a not entirely unfair point. It does not recruit me to the aim of leaving the European Union, although in fairness I do not think he was trying to. I accept what he says about other Departments, but the idea that procurement laws in the European Union have somehow hampered the Ministry of Defence is clearly a nonsense. We only have to look at the example of the fleet solid support ships. All the Government had to do, as other European Governments have done, was to designate them as warships, and then they could have announced that the ships would be built here, giving jobs to shipyards around the United Kingdom.

The MOD needs to stop privatising where it does not have to. Why on earth do we have to privatise, for example, the defence fire and rescue service? When on earth are we going to get to grips with giving proper terms and conditions to the Ministry of Defence police, treating them properly and rewarding them properly for defending critical state infrastructure?

It is good to see you in your place, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Government’s defence programme this time round will be different from the last two Parliaments—we will actually have some defence legislation. We will have legislation coming forward on vexatious claims, which Opposition Members will scrutinise line by line. We will be judicious and dispassionate, and we will want to get that right. Indeed, the Minister for Defence People and Veterans and I had an exchange on these affairs last week.

There will also be updates to the armed forces covenant, which we welcome and want to see implemented properly. We also want to see better terms and conditions for members of the armed forces. We will continue to make the case for the armed forces to have a proper representative body similar to the Police Federation, as is normal in other NATO countries—[Interruption.] Andrew Bowie can chunter away from a sedentary position if he likes, but I have yet to hear a sensible argument from him in the time that he has been here on how we improve those terms and conditions. I am happy to let him intervene.