Defence and Security Industrial Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 12:39 pm, 23rd March 2021

With permission, I should like to make a statement on the future defence and security industrial strategy. Last November, the Prime Minister announced he was increasing spending on defence by £24 billion over the next four years. Last week, the Government published their conclusions from the integrated review, the most comprehensive survey since the end of the cold war.

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence set out what amounts to the biggest shift in defence policy for a generation—a policy that will see us reinvesting, re-equipping and reorganising to face the threats of tomorrow. In doing so, he reconfirmed this Government’s commitment to spend more than £85 billion over the next four years on equipment and support for our armed forces. That reflects the fact that our armed forces will need to be present and persistent, and agile and adaptable in an ever-evolving threat landscape. That is why it almost goes without saying that the most important thing in defence procurement is ensuring our people have the right capability, at the right time, to preserve our national security.

Our success hinges on a productive relationship with industry. The UK’s defence and security industry is world-renowned. Ministry of Defence spending in the sector secures more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs across the UK, while the industry’s success as the world’s second largest global exporter of defence goods and services supports many thousands more. The sector provides our deterrent and underpins our critical national infrastructure. Through the MOD’s £300 per capita spend across the UK, it generates valuable skills and technology. The security industry alongside it, of more than 6,000 companies, is a font of enterprise and entrepreneurship. Last year, cyber-security firms raised more than twice as much investment as they had in 2019.

Overall, defence and security is one of the binding elements of our successful Union. Our world-class workforce builds everything from submarines to Typhoons right across the country. We have frigates made in Scotland, satellites in Belfast, next generation Ajax armoured vehicle technology in Wales and aircraft production in the north of England. We must never take for granted these industries, the skills they develop or the contribution they make to UK resilience, operational capability and prosperity. We must do more to recognise explicitly the social value that Government procurement can generate throughout the Union.

To ensure that we continue to have onshore capabilities that meet our needs and continue to generate prosperity long into the future, I am today publishing our defence and security industrial strategy. I am pleased to say the strategy is a detailed policy document, and rightly so, but its significance can be summed up in a few sentences. It signals a shift away from global competition by default towards a more flexible, nuanced approach. It provides, and we will continue to provide, greater clarity about the technology we seek and the market implications long before we launch into the market, allowing companies to research, invest and upskill. It identifies where global competition may not be compatible with our national security requirements and, at last, it regards industry as a strategic capability in its own right—an industry we must devote our attention to if we are to maintain our operational independence.

Today, I want to highlight three themes in particular that are at the heart of DSIS. The first is our ability to work together to generate growth and prosperity across the Union. DSIS sets the framework for greater integration between Government, industry and academia. It will see us working more closely, too, with top-flight research and those companies, great and small, that make this country so celebrated in the field of innovation. Through a better understanding of requirements, companies will be able to seize opportunities, pool resources and upskill to deliver cutting-edge capability onshore in the UK.

That is a framework that works. Our future combat air system shows that the principles of DSIS are already delivering. A fundamental strategic decision for this country, it will ensure UK air power continues at the cutting edge as it evolves through this decade and beyond. We are investing more than £2 billion over the next four years in this British-led international collaboration, safe in the knowledge that it will leverage hundreds of millions of pounds of investment from the corporate sector. These future systems will not just build technology but develop skills and create opportunity for 2,500 apprentices over the next five years. “Generation Tempest”, as we have dubbed this cohort of future talent, will, in turn, create extraordinary export opportunities with our friends and allies overseas.

Of course, competition remains critical in many areas. Even where we have already developed close partnerships at the prime level, we will expect to see productivity incentivised and innovation encouraged. Across all our national security procurement, DSIS will mean more transparency, more clarity of our requirements and a more co-operative approach to business. We are replicating this joint approach in other sectors: ensuring that we deliver our strategic imperatives, from nuclear to crypt-key; complex and novel weapons; and new opportunities that are opening up in areas such as armoured vehicles as we develop a new land industrial strategy.

Critically, our spending on FCAS reflects an increased willingness to invest in research and development. Overall, we are investing more than £6.6 billion in R&D over the next four years. That will support next-generation capabilities, from space satellites and automation to artificial intelligence and novel weapons. The message that our R&D spend sends, coupled with the clear direction of travel we are providing about our future priorities, will give businesses the confidence to invest.

That brings me to another key element: we must forge stronger international partnerships. By doing more R&D, we will keep ourselves current and encourage the very best from outside these shores to collaborate with UK companies. I have already mentioned FCAS as one example of how a UK-led collaboration with allies and partners can work, but we see it elsewhere in other air programmes, such as the UK’s significant contribution to the US F-35 stealth fighter or our ongoing investment in Typhoon with our European partners. Time and again, we see how international collaboration can deliver the very best kit for our people.

As part of this international emphasis, DSIS also puts a renewed focus on exports. As we demand more of industry to meet our requirements, so we need to offer it more support to win abroad and deliver economies of scale. It is because of our recent investments in maritime that I am the first Minister for Defence Procurement in a generation to talk about selling our state-of- the-art ship designs to our close friends in Australia and Canada, in respect of the Type 26, and, we hope, to others around the world. Notably, our Type 31 is a frigate that will be multi-purpose and has been specifically designed with the needs of international partners in mind.

Our integrated review seeks to capitalise on this new export-led approach, not only setting out our plans to deliver the eight Type 26s and five Type 31s but highlighting our investments in next-generation naval vessels, including Type 32 frigates and fleet solid support ships. We believe it is time to spark a renaissance in British shipbuilding. That is why we are today changing our naval procurement policy to make clear our ability to choose to procure warships of any description here in the UK.

The third and final theme of DSIS that I want to highlight is achieving real reform in how we procure. Some of this is about driving pace and better working inside the MOD to deliver capabilities at the speed of relevance, but it is also about changing how we interact with our suppliers, reforming the Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011 to focus more on innovation and increasing the agility of acquisition. We are adopting the social value procurement policy to ensure that wider qualities such as skills creation or supply chain resilience are explicitly taken into account in tender evaluation. That will be mandatory under DSPCR from 1 June.

We will be doing more to incentivise continuous improvement in single-source procurement. We want to ensure that the supply chains of our primes are constantly open to innovators, and we want to ensure that our fantastic small and medium-sized enterprises—the lifeblood of defence—get a fair chance when it comes to winning work, not least from inward investors whose interest and investment in the UK we will continue to welcome.

DSIS signals a step change in our approach to the defence and security industrial sectors. Ultimately, DSIS will make a huge difference to our nation’s defence. It will help retain onshore critical industries for our national security and our future. It will help us develop advanced skills and capabilities. It will help us realise the Prime Minister’s vision of the UK as a science superpower. With defence procurement benefiting every part of our Union, it will help galvanise our levelling-up agenda, creating a virtuous circle whereby the support we provide to those who defend and protect us becomes a catalyst that propels jobs, skills and prosperity in every corner of our United Kingdom. I commend this statement to the House.