The Government are committed to enhancing the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, both as a vital part of the United Kingdom’s economy and as suppliers to the Ministry of Defence. In December we will publish a Green Paper on our defence industrial and technology policy, which will include proposals for better support for small and medium-sized enterprises. It will be followed by a White Paper. In parallel, we propose to work with industry to review the representation of small and medium-sized enterprises on the National Defence Industries Council to ensure that their voice is properly heard.
We are well aware that SMEs can suffer particular challenges as a result of excessive delays, frequent changes and complexity in the procurement process. We intend to take full account of those concerns during our development of the Green and White Papers. However, I should welcome an opportunity to discuss the issues with my hon. Friend in my office at an early date, and I look forward to seeing him with his constituents.
When the Government purchase from small and medium-sized companies, those companies’ ability to deliver must be taken into account in the procurement process. Given that the Minister has not yet signed the contract for the light protected patrol vehicle, can he assure us that in that instance, ability to deliver—and in a timely way—will be fully evaluated? The vehicle really is needed in Afghanistan without delay, and that must surely be the Minister’s priority.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman’s close personal and constituency interest in this procurement. I entirely agree with what he has said, and I can give him an absolute assurance that the ability to build the vehicle on time will be a key part of our decision. As he has pointed out, it is very important to the protection of our troops in Afghanistan.