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Strategic Defence and Security Review

Volume 514: debated on Wednesday 21 July 2010

13. If he will take steps to ensure that account is taken in the strategic defence and security review of the implications for the Scottish economy of that review. (8923)

Maintaining a strong Scottish economy is one of my top priorities, and I have, and will continue to have, regular conversations with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the implications for Scotland of the strategic defence and security review.

Thousands of highly prized, highly skilled and highly paid jobs in manufacturing and engineering are dependent on the aircraft carriers going ahead. Back in Fife, all political parties, including the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, support the building of the second aircraft carrier. The Secretary of State’s former special adviser said that scrapping the second aircraft carrier would be crazy. Will the Secretary of State therefore come to Fife and meet the management and work force at Babcock during the summer recess, so that they can present their case—

I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the skills and expertise of the engineering sector, not just in defence but in so many other parts of the Scottish and UK economies. I fully understand the concerns that he is raising, and many of these issues are being considered as part of the strategic defence review. He might also be aware that I am planning to visit Babcock in the next few weeks.

Does the Secretary of State want to go down in history as the man who presided over the closure of the Clyde shipyards, or will he defend the two aircraft carriers?

The hon. Gentleman, particularly in his distinguished new role as Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, is a strong campaigner on these issues. As he knows, I intend to visit with him the shipyards and other defence installations in Glasgow in the near future.