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Strategic Defence Review

Volume 558: debated on Thursday 7 February 2013

10. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Defence on the development of the Government’s strategic defence review. (141938)

Preparations for the review are under way. My Department is fully engaged on the industrial aspects. Together with Steve Wadey from MBDA, I co-chair the defence growth partnership, which is addressing the competitiveness of the defence sector and especially how we can better exploit the links between civil and military technologies.

May I do something unusual, which is to thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for their help in saving the London Taxi Company in Coventry? What discussions has the Secretary of State or the Minister had with Rolls-Royce on the possible impact of its decision on the supply chain and through job losses?

I know that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) discussed that matter in the Department on Monday. I met Rolls-Royce yesterday. I understand that its decisions have to be made primarily in response to changes in key international defence programmes. If the hon. Gentleman is referring to the potential decisions about Ansty, he will know that any run-down there is expected to take several years and that no final decision has been taken.

The biggest threat to British defence companies is the shortage of engineering skills. That threatens our prosperity, their success and our security. I therefore invite my right hon. Friend to look as sympathetically as possible at the ten-minute rule Bill that I will introduce next week, which aims to inspire more young people, especially girls, to take up the exciting opportunity of pursuing a technological or engineering career.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He will know that the number of engineering apprenticeships and applications to study engineering are already increasing. The skills needs of the sector will be a key focus for the defence growth partnership.

Redundant Ministry of Defence sites can blight a local area, but they also offer the potential for new jobs and brownfield development, as is recognised by the Swindon and Wiltshire local enterprise partnership. Will the Minister recognise that in any advice that he gives to colleagues when they are considering the bids for the second wave of city deals?

That was a most ingenious formulation in support of the bid from the Swindon and Wiltshire local enterprise partnership in wave 2 of city deals, which is under consideration at the moment. I will ensure that the use of redundant land is one of the aspects that we consider.