My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on securing an important and very well-informed debate on the subjects of the Type 31e frigate programme and the Appledore shipyard. I welcome the opportunity that this debate affords to highlight the progress being made by the Ministry of Defence towards the important issue of delivering the Type 31e programme and the also important contribution that the programme is making to realising the vision of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
In 2016, the defence sector had a turnover of £23 billion and £5.9 billion of export orders. The Ministry of Defence is the sector’s most important customer. Last year we spent £18.7 billion with UK industry, directly supporting 123,000 jobs in every part of the UK. The 2017 sector examination, carried out by the MoD, with which noble Lords will be familiar, produced the analysis which duly informed the National Shipbuilding Strategy. That analysis was guided by the expert advice contained in Sir John Parker’s independent review. I have not the time available to go into details of the recommendations, but suffice to say that we accepted all of those that applied to government.
I noted that the noble Lord, Lord West, challenged a part of the review recommendations, but I have to say that my impression is that the National Shipbuilding Strategy constructed largely in that review has been widely welcomed. The noble Lord perhaps predictably questioned the number of craft actually available for deployment at sea. We are now building state-of-the-art vessels, deploying the most modern technology. That is introducing a flexibility of operation and deployment that was not previously possible.