Defence’s considerable commercial expertise is actively supporting the national effort in providing procurement, supply chain and logistics advice and expertise across Government. As a purchaser of some £19 billion of equipment and services annually, we are also working closely with our suppliers to support them at this difficult time.
In times of trouble, we rely on our armed forces as much now as we did 75 years ago, as embodied by Basildon resident and veteran Don Sheppard, who celebrated his 100th birthday last week. There are many who also rely on defence procurement for their livelihoods. How has my hon. Friend ensured that small businesses and the jobs they provide, which are particularly important in my constituency, are being protected at this time?
I am sure we would all wish to congratulate Mr Sheppard on his century, just as we all thank his extraordinary generation for their fortitude and service to our country.
My hon. Friend is right about the importance of defence jobs. There are 119,000 employed directly in the defence industry, and we are hugely grateful to all who have persevered in maintaining critical defence tasks at this difficult time. Our suppliers have made clear their determination to ensure safe working environments. We have worked with them to support the industry right through the supply chain, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, and we are grateful for all their work.