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We remain closely engaged with our strategic suppliers and continue to monitor the impact of covid-19 on the defence sector during this difficult time. We are engaged with defence primes and with SMEs, directly and via the prime contractors. As I said, the sector employs 119,000 people directly, and we are committed to its success.
We now go up to sunny Manchester and Lucy Powell.
It’s always sunny here, Mr Speaker.
The UK’s world-leading defence industry is critical to our national security as well as our prosperity, particularly here in the north-west, as the Minister has just outlined, but its future capability is inextricably linked to the aviation industry, which is now suffering a collapse in demand. Will the Government now commit to bringing forward major research and development programmes and clean tech to help support the whole sector, especially SMEs and others, to retain jobs and capability?
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question from sunny Manchester. The Government are providing a range of help and support across the board to every industry, as she is aware. In defence in particular—she is absolutely right that many defence companies have aerospace arms—we have been clear that we want to do everything we can to help. That includes ensuring prompt payment and looking, where appropriate, at interim payments to support companies where they are requested and required. We are doing our utmost to work with the industry, and I will be saying that again at the defence suppliers forum, which I will chair virtually later this week.