4. What progress his Department has made on delivering its defence equipment plan. (907670)
For the third consecutive year, the defence equipment plan demonstrates a realistic and affordable plan to invest £163 billion on new equipment and support for our armed forces over the next 10 years. The delivery of this plan has been independently assessed by the National Audit Office, through the major projects report. The best way to illustrate progress is to compare the report for 2009, when in-year cost overran by £4.5 billion, with cost underspends in 2014 of almost £400 million. My hon. Friend may recall who was responsible for the chaos of defence acquisition in 2009 and who is responsible for the competence we have brought to that department since.
I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and for the announcement made on Friday about the Type 26s. What is the timetable for the building of the Type 26 frigates? When will there be an announcement about the base porting, which we hope will be in Plymouth?
My hon. Friend is a vigorous champion of the merits of Devonport, in his constituency, as home to seven of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. The Prime Minister did indeed announce on Friday, as confirmed in a statement to the House this morning, that a demonstration phase contract worth £859 million to invest in detailed design work, shore-based test facilities and long-lead items for the first three Type 26 global combat ships will sustain 1,700 jobs. The current planning assumption is that 13 Type 26 vessels will replace the current frigates on a one-for-one basis, aligned to the current split in base port allocation, with the first coming into service in 2022.
It would be churlish of me not to welcome the recent contract that has been awarded that will benefit David Brown’s, a great employer in my constituency. Does the Minister agree that this Government’s failure to invest in men and equipment means that we are a laughing stock around the world? Our defence capacity is derided by the President of the United States, and President Putin knows very well that we are too weak to be a powerful defence force in Europe?
I do not recognise the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of the defence equipment plan or, indeed, the capability of our defence industry to support it. This country remains the second largest defence exporter in the world. If our capability was so derided, as he says, how come we sold defence equipment worth nearly £10 billion last year?
Last October, the Government announced the largest Army order in 30 years for the latest set of armoured vehicles. Will the Minister outline the potential for greater procurement from UK firms, which would benefit firms in the midlands, including Elite KL in Tamworth?
I am proud to confirm that the Scout contract was the largest vehicle contract for the British Army since the Falklands war, and more contracts have now been let through the supply chain for that vehicle. The number of UK jobs secured through the programme is expected to be some 2,400 across more than 160 suppliers. Two-thirds of the suppliers are UK-based, including several in the midlands, and from all parts of the country.
Three of my constituents from RAF Lossiemouth were killed and a fourth was seriously injured when two Tornadoes collided above the Moray firth. That occurred nearly 20 years after the Ministry of Defence recommended the installation of collision warning systems. Is it really true that only eight out of 100 Tornado aircraft have had such a system installed, that they are not fully operational and that there are no concrete plans for such a system to be installed in the Typhoon fleet?
The hon. Gentleman has raised that subject many times in this House. He knows full well from the answers that I have given him to parliamentary questions that, when our Tornado fleet has a traffic collision avoidance system installed, it will be the first combat jet fleet anywhere in the world to have such a system. Civil airline fleets have been provided with such systems with success, but introducing such a system into a combat jet environment is exceptionally complicated. I can confirm that currently eight aircraft have been fitted with a system. We are working to iron out some of the residual issues with that system as we install it across the Tornado fleet.
As my hon. Friend is well aware, we are anticipating that a strategic defence and security review will take place following the general election later this summer, so all the planning assumptions that were introduced in the 2010 review will be reconsidered in 2015. As I mentioned earlier, as far as the frigate contract is concerned, the current planning assumption is for a like-for-like replacement of the Type 23 class.
That was a very interesting comment from the Minister given that the Prime Minister recently announced that both carriers would be operational. Clearly, it also has implications for the equipment programme. Is the Minister saying that he intends to build 13 frigates for carrier support?
I just explained in my answer to the previous question what the planning assumption is for replacing frigates. I can reconfirm to the hon. Lady that within the equipment plan is the capital cost of constructing both aircraft carriers, and they are coming in on time and on budget, in stark contrast to what happened under the previous Government.