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Armed Forces: Equipment

Volume 696: debated on Monday 24 May 2021

What steps he is taking to ensure that the armed forces are provided with equipment that is (a) up-to-date and (b) high quality. (900380)

This Government will spend more than £85 billion on equipment and support over the next four years to ensure that the men and women of the armed forces have modern equipment that they need to meet the threat. That includes a commitment of at least £6.6 billion to invest in research and development to develop the capabilities of the future.

Surely the Minister is aware that only last month the Defence Committee said that, in a conflict with a country such as Russia, our forces would be obsolete and outgunned, because their armed vehicle capability is just not up to scratch. As a Member of Parliament who represents some fine engineering companies in the defence sector, such as David Brown and many others, may I ask what is going wrong with our defence capability at the same time as this Government are cutting our armed forces down to the bare minimum of 82,000 personnel?

What is going on is a massive enhancement —an investment—of our armed forces, particularly in the Army. I refer to Ajax, which is well known to many people in this House; to the Challenger 3 announcement, to which my right hon. Friend referred; and, in particular, to Boxer. The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to hear that David Brown in his constituency won a multi-year power pack contract for the Boxer programme. We are putting in a huge amount of investment, which will help us to develop a highly credible armed force. That is what we are developing and continuing to invest in and he can be proud of what they can deliver.

In the light of the cancellation of Warrior and the delays and rising costs of Ajax, will the Minister now give a specific date on which our armed forces will finally receive the new generation of armoured vehicles?

I start by welcoming the hon. Gentleman to his place. He, like me, is a historian and will know that there have been debates about how quickly defence equipment will arrive since the days of Hywel Dda buying body armour and Alfred the Great putting the original order in for offshore patrol vessels. It is always an issue of contention when things will arrive—when they will get delivered. He can be very assured by the nature of the contracts that we have awarded and by their delivery. Ajax is still in its demonstration phase, but we have the original 14 vehicles with us, and work is ongoing. Challenger 3 is committed to be joining us in the Army’s line up. We are doing our best to advance Boxer and it is already well on track, with contracts awarded throughout the United Kingdom. That is a combination that will get us skilled jobs into the UK, while, at the same time, giving our armed forces the capabilities that they need to meet the threats of the future.