Combat Air Strategy — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 3:29 pm on 27th June 2019.

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Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney 3:29 pm, 27th June 2019

Sorry, it is 3%—that is even better. We all agree about that. My hon. Friend’s overarching point is that we cannot expect the industrial base to be there in the way that it has been in the past. In the past, the Government have been able to allow the industry to create the incredible machines that the Air Force has used and exported, but because of the extraordinary complexity and cost, the Government now have a greater role in identifying what we will need and why. He is right that more Government input will be required.

My hon. Friend Mark Menzies echoed the point about increased funding—I quite agree. I am also grateful to him for emphasising that the Hawk is the last all-British aircraft. Perhaps it will not be the last; let us hope not. It is a flying British ambassador that does wonders for our international influence and our standing as a country every time it is seen at an air show.

I am grateful to Carol Monaghan for emphasising both the multiplier effect of jobs in the supply chain, and primary school involvement. She is absolutely right that the younger that people get interested, the better. In her intervention on the Minister, she put her finger on something: in the past, industry or the military went into the school and everyone had a great day, enjoyed themselves and remembered it, but the next week they moved on to something else. I am conscious that it is no longer like that—not at Carterton Community College, which has a partnership with Brize Norton. Perhaps one of my letters will follow to the Minister, who might like to come and see the interplay between the base, the industry on the base and the local school, where they are starting to build almost a supply chain of engaged, technically aware pupils. That is very much what we aim to do at Carterton, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady for putting her finger on that.

I am grateful to Fabian Hamilton for mentioning the F-35 model point. I did not go into detail on that because it is slightly away from the topic, but he has given me an idea. I might apply for something on that issue in the near future.

That brings me to the Minister, and again I am grateful to him for everything he said. He gave me another idea: I might apply for a similar debate, but I will work with the House authorities to see if I can get a Treasury Minister to answer instead of him. That would be valuable. I have issued an invitation to him to come and see Carterton, which I know he would enjoy. I am grateful to him for agreeing in principle that more money should be spent on defence. I emphasise that, and I make that plea again. We have gone as low as we can, given the world we face and the complexity of our armed forces’ requirements. We need more money in defence, but—this is not aimed at the Minister—we must reassess the way in which its contribution to the entire country is measured. I thank you, Mr Bone, and everyone who took part in the debate.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered Combat Air Strategy progress and next steps.

Sitting adjourned.