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Defence Industry: Exports and Jobs

Volume 657: debated on Monday 25 March 2019

14. What steps his Department is taking to (a) support an increase in UK defence exports and (b) protect defence industry jobs. (910000)

In 2017, the UK won defence orders worth £9 billion, making us the second largest global defence exporter. We work actively with the Department for International Trade to support industry, and recent successes include the export of the Type 26 to Canada and Australia, and the US Department of Defence awarding a further £500 million-worth of support work for the F-35 programme in north Wales.

Supacat, the leading specialist in the design and development of high-mobility defence vehicles, is located in my constituency. If it wins a contract in Denmark, it has to offset 60% of that work in Denmark with supplying those vehicles to the Danish Government, yet that is not something that we do here. Will the Minister meet Supacat to discuss what more could be done to ensure that we secure high-skilled defence jobs in this country when defence contracts are lost to foreign companies?

Of course I would be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend and the company in his constituency. The UK and many of our closest international defence partners do not use offset because it can distort the market and lead to reduced value for money, but we look at alternative ways to encourage more inward investment. That is why we are working closely with Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and we are aiming for 60% of the Boxer programme to be undertaken in the UK.

24. It was a pleasure to see the Minister in Glasgow on Friday for the naming of HMS Tamar, which, when it was ordered, was classified as a complex warship. Now, under the national shipbuilding strategy, it is no longer considered to be a complex warship. Leaving that bizarre situation aside, given the precarious situation faced by numerous British shipbuilders such as Harland and Wolff, which is facing administration, the further job losses at Rosyth and the closure of the Appledore shipyard, what are the Government doing to ensure that the consideration of the bid for the fleet solid support ships contract will be weighted so that the UK economic prosperity consideration is factored into the awarding of that contract, so that the UK consortium will prevail? (910010)

It was a pleasure to see the hon. Gentleman in Glasgow. That was a great event and I was happy to be there. He will know that we are trying to make UK industry as competitive as possible. That is why we are putting this out to international competition; it is not described as a warship. That said, I am delighted that there is a team UK, a consortium of UK shipbuilders, bidding into that competition. There will also be lots of opportunities for the supply chain, which has benefited from other competitions that went international, such as that for the military afloat reach and sustainability—MARS—ships.