To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the value of current orders placed by his Department with British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance, VSEL, Ferranti and Leyland Daf.
The current value of outstanding contracts placed by the Ministry of Defence with the companies listed is as follows: British Aerospace, £1,625 million; Royal Ordnance, £315 million; VSEL, £1,070 million; Ferranti, £360 million; and Leyland Daf, £105 million.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the lion's share of the contracts that he has just announced has been placed with defence factories in the north-west of England, including Lancashire. Will he confirm that, if he were sufficiently unwise—like the Labour party—to cut a further £6 billion from the defence budget, over and above the "Options for Change" proposals, there would be massive job losses in those factories? Will he also confirm that he does not intend to do that?
My hon. Friend referred to the north-west of England, and I can give him the figure for Lancashire. The current orders outstanding are worth £540 million. As he has asked, I can tell him that, were there to be a cut of £6 billion in the defence budget, the vast majority of those jobs in Lancashire would go and factories would close.
Nevertheless—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If Conservative Members want to play infantile games, I am prepared to stand here.Nevertheless, does the Minister agree that the number of defence jobs in the north-west has gone down from 23,000 in 1985–86 to only 12,000 in 1989–90, a cut of almost 50 per cent. in only four years? That does not take account of the many closures and redundancies announced since the end of 198–0 which have halved again the number of jobs in the north-west. Unless the Government are prepared to provide a forum for funds and expertise to assist the defence industry to diversify into other products, the job losses and the decline in Britain's economic performance will continue—but, then, the Secretary of State does not care.
Not only do I care but the Government are meeting their obligations and providing procurement orders to ensure that our forces have the equipment that they need. The House will have heard the hon. Gentleman in his honest and decent way—the House respects his honesty—accepting with his opening word "nevertheless" that that is the implication of Labour's defence policy. I can tell the hon. Gentleman with the full authority of my office and my responsibility for the programme that if one cuts £6 billion from the defence budget no defence job in the country will be safe.