While we must maintain the UK’s freedom of action to operate independently, interoperability with our NATO allies is fundamental to virtually all UK defence capabilities. For the general purpose frigate, the Royal Navy is already exploring how that could be delivered, and considering how the ship will operate within NATO.
Does the Minister agree that opening up more of the procurement process to a broader range of suppliers, and avoiding any hint of protectionism, may make it possible to keep the cost of replacing our frigates low?
The hon. Gentleman takes a close interest in defence procurement issues, and I know that, like the rest of the House, he will be eagerly anticipating Sir John Parker’s national shipbuilding strategy, which he has committed himself to publishing before the autumn statement. In that context, the hon. Gentleman will obviously be aware that complex warships can only be built in the United Kingdom.
When can we expect an announcement on the building of the Type 31s? We have the capability, we have the skills, and presumably we have the budget. Scotland expects!
Let me gently remind the hon. Gentleman that we are building these ships because we all decided to remain part of the United Kingdom. We are in the process of providing our armed forces with more ships, more aircraft and more equipment than ever before. As soon as we have a concrete timetable to announce to the House, we will do so.