Defence and Security Industrial Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:49 pm on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 12:49 pm, 23rd March 2021

I am delighted to confirm that the next years will be all about delivery, delivery, delivery, based on the sound financial footing that this defence settlement has given us. I am very proud of what we have achieved with the plans that we have set out, and I am convinced that we will be able to meet the challenge that has been set for us in order to ensure that we are investing properly for the future.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments about the armed forces’ contribution during covid. They are sincerely meant, and I know they will be welcomed across the armed forces. I also thank him for his comments about the defence sector. It rose to the challenge as team UK, with unions and management continuing to deliver for the public good.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s commitment to support us on moving away from global competition by default, as well as his comments on naval procurement and his welcoming of the £6.6 billion for R&D. I have good news for him: this policy absolutely gives us the ability to set out right from the outset what we are trying to achieve from a tender. It is not only about making certain we have the best equipment for our armed forces, but about what else we can get for that in the national interest, ensuring that we maximise our social value. That will come through in the awarding of the marks in the tender, which, as I have said, will be compulsory as of 1 June. I believe that we will get a lot out of the strategy. We will see more equipment built in Britain, both by UK companies and by those collaborating with us.

The right hon. Gentleman then strayed into some of the economics of the task. I was in the Treasury under the last Labour Administration, and we could have a discussion about the state of the national finances in 2010 if he chose to have one, and the £36 billion black hole left in the Ministry of Defence. [Interruption.] I hear chuntering. I have an excellent article from The Guardian that will confirm it, but I will share it at a later date. There was a significant black hole left, and I regret that there were jobs lost over that period. I hope we will not be so lackadaisical about exports that can maintain jobs, but there is a long lag time on that. I am proud to see the investment we are now putting into our defence. We make no mistake in what we say about our equipment plan over the past four years—it has clearly been unaffordable, and the permanent secretary has made clear that that is the case. We now have a strong basis on which to deliver.

To reassure the right hon. Gentleman, he mentioned that there are only three green lights, and I think he is referring to the Government major projects portfolio, where the senior responsible owners themselves highlight at-risk projects. There is only one thing more scary than projects that are delayed or do not hit their costings, and that is when SROs are unaware of it. I am pleased we have people who are all over the detail and are focusing on making certain that these projects work. I would rather problems were highlighted so they can be addressed.

To help address that issue, we are doubling the number of projects that are going to be looked at through the defence major projects portfolio. That will go up to 65. That will ensure that at the centre in the Ministry of Defence, we are keeping a close eye on what the top-level budgets are delivering and making certain that we are continuing to deliver those programmes to time and cost. We continue to upgrade Defence Equipment and Support. The number of those trained at senior commercial standard will have risen from 125 to 200 by the end of this year, and we are determined to continue to deliver on the DE&S transformation plan.

I am very optimistic for the future. I am optimistic that, working together with industry, we can continue to deliver a fine UK defence industry of which we can all be proud and that will continue to deliver the protection, equipment and lethality that our troops continue to need to be effective in meeting the challenges in the year ahead.