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House of Commons Hansard
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Defence Installations
06 January 2016
Volume 604
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3. What plans he has to meet Ministers of the Scottish Government to discuss defence installations in Scotland. [902845]

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May I start by adding to your comment in introducing question 3, Mr Speaker? I congratulate my hon. Friend on the recognition he received last week for some 30 years’ service to this House and the people of Norfolk. It is a great pleasure that he received that recognition.

In response to his question, the Ministry of Defence engages with the Scottish Government about defence establishments and other defence matters at many levels, both official and ministerial. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and I met the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities on 17 November to discuss the strategic defence and security review. The Defence Minister responsible for reserves has met the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary twice previously, and the Defence Secretary has agreed to meet the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary soon.

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I thank the Minister for his generosity. Given that the decision on Faslane will sustain the largest employment site in Scotland for decades to come, is it not clear that Scotland is the biggest beneficiary of the recent SDSR? Surely that makes the stance on Trident of both the Leader of the Opposition and the SNP even more perverse and damaging.

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My hon. Friend is right that this Government are investing significantly in defence in Scotland. Following the SDSR, not only will we spend some £500 million at Faslane—one of the Royal Navy’s three operating bases and one of the largest employment sites in Scotland with 6,800 military and civilian jobs, which will increase to more than 8,000 as we move all our submarines to be based there by 2022—but Scotland will be home to our new maritime patrol aircraft, with some 400 extra personnel stationed to man the squadron at RAF Lossiemouth.

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Scotland is in a vital geostrategic location, with the Iceland gap to our north, the Atlantic to our west and the North sea to our east. As the Scottish National party has been pointing out for a long time, it has been negligent and dangerous for a maritime state such as the UK not to have maritime patrol aircraft. We therefore welcome the Government’s recent U-turn on the procurement of P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Can the Minister tell us when the entire fleet will be operational?

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We made it clear in the SDSR that we would be procuring nine P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, and that the fleet would be procured through a foreign military sales procurement contract, the letter for which has already been submitted to the United States. The first aircraft will be operational in 2019.

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The House will note that the Minister was unable to answer my question on when the entire fleet would be operational. Perhaps when he responds to my second question, he will be able to answer the first one. The RAF is currently maintaining its skill base by training on maritime patrol aircraft with the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Does the Minister acknowledge the importance of the maritime patrol aircraft training that was scheduled to be based at RAF Kinloss before the scrapping of the Nimrod fleet? Will the Government ensure that training on the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft is based at RAF Lossiemouth, as the training for Tornados and Typhoon aircraft is now?

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As we are currently in contractual negotiations for the procurement, it would be quite wrong for me to pre-empt the precise nature of those negotiations, so I cannot answer the right hon. Gentleman’s initial question on how many aircraft will be available, and when, until such time as the contract has been concluded. On the question of training, he is right to say that we have crews in service on this platform with other users in the United States. The training basing will be established as part of the procurement process in the coming months.