The maritime support delivery framework contracts are an excellent example of the contribution that the Ministry of Defence makes to sustaining the long-term economic health of the nation's three main naval bases. The contracts total £3.2 billion of spending by the Royal Navy over five years with BAE Systems and Babcock, and will sustain about 7,500 jobs, up to 4,000 of them at Devonport and more than 2,000 at Portsmouth, and about 1,500 at Clyde.
Yes, I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that these contracts are an integral part of the Department’s innovative 10-year forward equipment plan. Not only are they in the plan, but they represent far better value for money for the taxpayer than the previous support arrangements by securing more than £350 million of savings. As my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary said last month, the last Government left a terrible legacy of waste and mismanagement in the form of a £38 billion black hole in defence, which this Government have eliminated through our long-term plan for defence and improving the efficacy of defence procurement.
Will the Minister join me in praising the work done by civilian contractors throughout the country, and, in particular, that done by Babcock at Devonport naval base in helping to repair and manage the Royal Navy’s warships and submarines, which play a key part in protecting our vital national interests?
My hon. Friend is right to welcome the stability that these contracts provide for the communities that support the Royal Navy’s three main operating bases. That includes an investment of nearly £2 billion in support activity at the largest base—the one at Plymouth Devonport, to which he referred and which is near his constituency—until 2020.
As I have told the House during nearly every session of defence questions, securing greater penetration of the MOD’s contracting base by SMEs is an important priority for the Ministry and for me. On Tuesday next week I shall chair the latest SME forum to discuss that very subject.