Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I first call attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my involvement in the all-party parliamentary group for the armed forces and the Armed Forces Parliamentary Trust, both of which I chair and both of which are supported by the major UK defence companies? They are among the greatest defence manufacturers in the world, and I salute them for it.
Will the Minister acknowledge two other groups whose contribution we nurture? First, he mentioned small and medium-sized enterprises several times. I welcome the fact that there will be a refresher on the action plan produced during this year. When he does produce that refresher, will he please do two things? First, will he increase the number of direct contracts between the Ministry of Defence and the SMEs? Otherwise those SMEs risk being squeezed out by the original equipment manufacturers.
Secondly, will the Minister strengthen the contractual obligations on OEMs to use British SMEs? I understand his concerns about sovereign capability and I very much welcome his commitment to use British manufacturers as much as he possibly can in the future, but will he also recognise and support the very many companies that are overseas in ownership, but that make a huge contribution to our defence? Boeing, Raytheon and Elbit all spring to mind, and Leonardo has already been mentioned. They employ large numbers of people and make a huge contribution to our defence overseas, even if they are actually owned by overseas companies.