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EU Defence Technological and Industrial Base

Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

10. What assessment he has made of the merits of a European Union defence technological and industrial base. (105381)

We continually assess the merits of the European Union defence technology and industrial base against our specific requirements for the development, acquisition and support of defence equipment capability. Significant technology and industrial capability resides within a number of EU member states.

The European Commission has said that it intends to safeguard Europe’s technological and industrial base. It has made it clear that it intends to end the practice right across the European Union of trying to save defence jobs in the short term by exporting know-how and jobs in the longer term through so-called offset deals. What is my right hon. Friend’s position on that?

My position is clear, and it is consistent with my answers to earlier questions. We must ensure at all times that we have a strong, secure manufacturing and defence industry in this country. We have defined what we propose to do through the defence industrial strategy and the maritime industrial strategy. We have set a clear objective not just in the MOD, but alongside industry and with the support of the trade unions and the work force. But there is overcapacity in the EU and that must be addressed as well. We must move forward to make sure that we have a strong base both in the UK and in Europe because—let us be clear—other nations are beginning to strengthen their capabilities. To be able to compete, we need to be strong.

Can the Minister guarantee that all future defence systems that may emerge from European collaborative projects will be compatible with parallel defence systems deployed by the United States and other NATO allies?

I would like to think so, because that is the way we are going. I am surprised that hon. Gentleman asks that question, given the intensive effort that has gone into ensuring interoperability and compatibility between systems. I draw his attention to what we are seeking to do with the United States on the joint strike fighter, which is a good example of our joining the United States in taking on an advanced aircraft. This is not just about fixed-wing aircraft—it is happening across a whole range of platforms to ensure that we have such interoperability; otherwise NATO cannot effectively deliver the resources that it seeks to, and needs to, in many areas of the world.