Last year, we published the White Paper, “National Security Through Technology”, setting out the purpose of defence procurement—namely, to provide our armed forces with the best capabilities we can afford while obtaining the best possible value for money. The Ministry of Defence makes a significant contribution to the UK economy—approximately £20 billion of annual spend sustaining many highly skilled jobs in communities the length and breadth of Britain—but we also support the defence industry in the UK through active help in export campaigns and in supporting the defence growth partnership, where we share its vision to secure a thriving UK defence sector.
I add my support to the hon. Gentleman’s efforts to ensure that the NATO summit in Newport is a great success next year. The Scout vehicle is proceeding in its demonstration phase and has passed a number of milestones. As he is aware, it is due to be delivered as part of Future Force 2020. I will not be able to give him an update on the next placing of contracts until such time as the main investment case has been made.
It will not surprise the Minister to learn that I entirely agree with his answer, but may I ask him, on the day when Professor John Perkins’ review of engineering skills has revealed a serious shortage of those skills in this country, what assessment he has made of the impact of that shortage on the defence industries in particular, and on the nation’s operational advantage and freedom of action?
I thank my hon. Friend for all his work in stimulating interest among our young people in taking up engineering careers, particularly so that they can take up the many hundreds of engineering jobs for which the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces seek to recruit every year. We are doing a lot of work, not least through the Bloodhound initiative—a project with which he was intimately involved—to raise awareness of engineering skills in the armed forces, and to encourage young people to consider maths, science and engineering as future careers.