Defence Industry: Scotland

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:47 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 4:47 pm, 30th April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone. I congratulate Ged Killen. He spoke very well, with passion and conviction, and thoughtfully. I was delighted with the tone that he set for the debate.

I wish to take us in a slightly different direction with public policy in the defence industry and on diversification, because I wish to refer specifically to the Scottish Trades Union Congress campaign to set up—or to encourage the SNP Scottish Government to set up—a defence diversification agency. That approach to defence diversification, rather than the one in the hon. Gentleman’s thoughtful speech, is simplistic and frankly regrettable. Not only is the point of view that the Government are best placed to tell business how to operate mistaken and misguided, but the ideologically blinkered way in which the left approaches this vital area of public policy is lacking.

I would not often choose to quote from the Morning Star—frankly, I have not often even perused a copy of it—[Interruption.] I know that Opposition Members are disappointed to hear that I am not a regular subscriber. On 15 May, it ran a story on the vote at the STUC annual congress calling on the SNP Government

“to establish a Defence Diversification Agency to promote a ‘fair and sustainable shift’
away from nuclear weapons.”

Continuing to quote the Morning Star—the first and perhaps only occasion on which I will do so—the report went on:

“But professionals’
union Prospect and general union GMB opposed the motion, saying it sent the wrong message to defence workers.

GMB Scotland delegate John Dolan, a Scotstoun shipyard convener, said: ‘This motion is not in the real world of work.

‘These people have worked in these industries for years, keeping you, your children and your grandchildren safe.

‘How many jobs have been created by defence diversification?

‘This is a con. Where is the Saudi Arabia of renewables we were promised 10 years ago by Alex Salmond and the SNP government?’”

I do not know John Dolan—perhaps other Members present do—but I want to repeat a line of his, because it is important:

“These people have worked in these industries for years, keeping you, your children and your grandchildren safe.”

I agree with the statement made by the hon. Member for Rutherglen and Hamilton West in his opening speech that we should be proud of the defence sector in Scotland. As he mentioned, UK defence spends £1.6 billion with Scottish industry each year, supporting at least 10,000 high-value jobs in the Scottish economy.