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National Security Through Technology

Volume 539: debated on Wednesday 1 February 2012

I am pleased that we are publishing today our White Paper on “National Security Through Technology: Technology, Equipment, and Support for UK Defence and Security” which has been developed jointly with the Home Office. This fulfils one of our commitments in the strategic defence and security review and follows on from the Green Paper “Equipment, Support and Technology for UK Defence and Security: A Consultation Paper”. As its title implies, the White Paper emphasises the contribution that using, sustaining and developing technology makes to our security.

This is the first time that the UK Government have set a formal statement of our approach to defence and security technology, equipment, and support. This is our high-level policy until the next strategic review, which is expected to be held in about 2015. It supersedes the defence industrial strategy 2005 and the defence technology strategy 2006.

We must ensure that our armed forces, national security, and law enforcement agencies have the best capabilities we can afford at the best value for money for the taxpayer. Balancing these considerations appropriately is even more important given the economic situation we face.

Wherever possible, therefore, we will seek to fulfil the UK’s defence and security requirements through open competition in the domestic and global market, buying off-the-shelf where appropriate. We will look first for products that are proven, that are reliable and that meet our current needs. This is the best way of ensuring that our armed forces and security services have access to the equipment they need at the time they need it and at a price the nation can afford.

However, and importantly, where essential for national security, we will protect the UK’s operational advantages and freedom of action; when we do this it will mean sustaining the necessary people, skills, infrastructure, and intellectual property that allow us to build and maintain our national security.

Technology underpins this approach so it is our intention to end a long period of declining budgets and maintain MOD’s investment in science and technology at a minimum of 1.2% of the defence budget as protection for our future.

Defence and security procurement has a significant industrial and economic impact. Our policy on technology, equipment and support for UK defence and security also supports our wider economic policy objective to achieve strong, sustainable and balanced growth for the UK. A healthy and competitive defence and security industry in the UK contributes to growth and a re-balanced economy.

The White Paper reaffirms our commitment to doing our utmost to assist UK-based suppliers in obtaining export orders and to increase opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to fulfil their potential. We will continue to create the right conditions for SMEs to deliver the innovation and flexibility that we need and which they bring. We are doing this because of the benefits to the companies themselves, to the wider UK economy and to the security of the United Kingdom.

This assistance for SMEs is part of our wider work to ensure public procurement promotes growth, and includes publishing medium-term procurement pipelines; simplifying procurement processes to reduce burdens on industry, and engaging with potential suppliers at a much earlier stage, before formal procurement begins, to increase their opportunities to participate.

The defence and security sectors are vital to the success of the UK economy. In 2010 the UK was the second biggest exporter in the world with £6 billion of sales and the UK security industry was the fifth most successful exporter of security products with £2 billion of sales. The Government remain committed to robust and effective national and global controls to help prevent exports that could undermine our own security or core values of human rights and democracy; to protect our security through enhancing strategic defence relationships; and to promote our prosperity by allowing UK defence and security companies to operate effectively in the global defence market.

We are proud of the strength of the UK defence and security industries. They help provide the UK armed forces, national security, and law enforcement agencies with some of the very best kit available. They are better equipped now than they have ever been. We recognise the wider impact that Government spending choices on defence and security can have and we are therefore establishing a new ministerial working group to co-ordinate the cross-Government aspects of our new approach.

This White Paper, alongside the publication later this year of the MOD’s 10-year equipment plan, is intended to be a high-level guide to our approach to meeting the requirements of our armed forces. At a time of financial constraint across Government, it is even more important to provide the clarity that will help industry to invest in the right areas, protecting both our security and the contribution these companies make to the UK economy. We plan to continue to invest a significant amount in defence equipment and its support: over £150 billion over the next 10 years.

The White Paper is part of a broader defence transformation programme, which also includes implementation of the Levene review, the Materiel Strategy, and Lord Currie's review of Government Single Source Pricing Regulations.

As the companies offering defence and security products and services become increasingly aligned, these steps will encourage a vibrant UK-based industry that is able to win a significant share of the world market, and to meet the varied and changing capabilities required by our armed forces and security services.