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New Aircraft Carriers

Volume 520: debated on Monday 13 December 2010

6. What estimate he has made of the likely effect on the economy of his decision to build two aircraft carriers. (29881)

The construction of the two Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers is expected to create or sustain around 7,000 to 8,000 jobs in the tier 1 shipyards of Appledore, Govan, Portsmouth and Rosyth, with a further 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in the wider supply chain. Equipment subcontracts to the value of some ÂŁ1.3 billion have been placed to date, boosting local economies across the UK. The strategic defence and security review confirmed that both carriers will be built, and we expect that construction work on the programme will continue until late in this decade.

I thank the Minister for that encouraging answer. He may be aware that I have introduced the Apprenticeships and Skills (Public Procurement Contracts) Bill to encourage better use of the public procurement system to increase the number of apprenticeships available. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that defence procurement increases the number of apprenticeships available, helping to build on skills bases in areas like the north-east, which has a proud history of manufacturing in this sector?

I congratulate the hon. Lady on her initiative, and I can say that defence contractors up and down the country are committed to apprenticeships—and I pay tribute to them for that. It is very important that we maintain the skills base of our defence manufacturing industries, and they will be invited to contribute to the consultation that we are launching shortly on our new defence equipment policy.