The Ministry of Defence continues to lead strategic exports campaigns, working across Government and with industry to win business abroad. I am sure that hon. Members will join me in welcoming BAE Systems’ success in being selected as the preferred bidder in Australia’s SEA 5000 future frigate programme.
We have a world-leading product and want to sell it right across the world. The deal with Australia is a great success; it is the first major export of ships in more than 40 years. The next place that we will target is, of course, Canada. Working closely with our “Five Eyes” partners, it is important that we have capability so that we can work together, as well as build prosperity together.
While we hear much about the physical exports manufactured by Chemring Defence in my constituency, among other companies, what more is being done to export British military skills and training, which are the envy of the world, so that we ensure that operational equipment that is exported from the UK is used in accordance with our specific aims?
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. Our skills are in not just the development of technology and equipment, but people, as was touched on earlier. We have a lot of world-leading companies, such as Babcock, that export their services right around the world, but we also have people’s experience of serving in the armed forces and the way in which they help and support other countries right around the world after they leave service.
In answer to the last bit of that question, I am very confident that the answer is no. I had regular discussions with the former Foreign Secretary about exports, and I will continue to work very closely with the Foreign Office. I pay tribute to the way in which the Department for International Trade and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, especially the high commission in Canberra, have worked with the Ministry of Defence to land this vital order.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the Premier of South Australia, who will be in the House in about four minutes and whom I will be taking to tea in the Pugin Room? I would be very grateful if my right hon. Friend would like to join us to congratulate him on buying the Type 26 and encourage his Canadian opposite numbers to do likewise. Does he agree that this offers an opportunity to build a Commonwealth of common law on our sea lanes and keep trade open for all of us?
We will work ever more closely with our Commonwealth cousins in order to do that. The Royal Australian Navy’s making this investment is an absolutely vital step forward for our relationship with it. This is about more than just buying ships; it is also about the capability to operate together and keep world sea lanes safe.