Skip to main content

Defence Industry Employment

Volume 698: debated on Monday 5 July 2021

What steps his Department is taking to support employment in the defence industry throughout the UK. (902160)

What steps his Department is taking to support employment in the defence industry throughout the UK. (902162)

What steps his Department is taking to support employment in the defence industry throughout the UK. (902188)

What steps his Department is taking to support employment in the defence industry throughout the UK. (902190)

May I congratulate the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater) on taking her place and state my personal admiration for both her bravery and her sense of duty in putting herself forward to stand for that seat after the tragic loss of her sister?

MOD expenditure with UK industry and commerce already directly and indirectly supports more than 200,000 jobs across the United Kingdom. The investment of £88 billion in the equipment plan over the next four years, along with the changes we are making as part of the defence and security industrial strategy, will contribute to further economic growth and prosperity, including jobs across the United Kingdom.

I was proud to welcome the Minister for exports, my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart), to BAE Systems in my constituency the week before last to visit the factory of the future. That followed hot on the footsteps of the Prime Minister’s visit back in March, so will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State outline what is being done to support our world-class defence manufacturing export success, and will he commit to the continuation of the Typhoon export programme?

The defence and security industrial strategy published in March set out how the Government will support defence and security exports. The UK Government and BAE are leading on the current opportunity in Finland and will continue to support industry in this campaign and future opportunities where they are present. Typhoon continues to benefit from ongoing investment, including Leonardo’s European Common Radar System Mark 2 radar and MBDA’s Meteor and SPEAR—Selective Precision Effects at Range—weapons. This increased capability delivered by the core programme will strengthen export prospects.

Lincolnshire has the privilege of being the historic home of many MOD bases and personnel. I am proud to have RAF Waddington in my constituency of Lincoln; as my right hon. Friend is aware, it houses and employs thousands of my constituents. Will he assure me not only that RAF Waddington will play an active role in our nation’s defence for many decades to come, but that he recognises that the recently announced changes at RAF Waddington are a concern for many Northrop Grumman personnel? What steps are being taken to preserve those with critical skills, both locally and nationally? Will he work with potential overseas buyers of RAF aircraft to secure technically skilled jobs and provide extensive employment for my constituents?

May I express my gratitude to the Northrop Grumman team who have worked on the E-3D Sentry over the years? Retiring old aircraft will inevitably impact the people who work on them. However, RAF Waddington, which I recently visited, remains firmly in our plans: as it becomes a national and international centre of excellence for remotely piloted air systems and for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, it will be a source of skilled employment for my hon. Friend’s constituents. We are investing in 16 Protector remotely piloted air systems. RAF Waddington will be the future home of the Red Arrows as well.

I was delighted to see that last week His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge cut the steel for HMS Belfast, the third ship in the Royal Navy’s fleet of next-generation Type 26 anti-submarine frigates. All eight Type 26 frigates are being built by BAE Systems on the Clyde. Can the Secretary of State outline how many jobs that programme will support?

The Type 26 frigate programme consists of a total of eight ships, as my hon. Friend says, with work sustaining some 1,700 jobs at BAE Systems in Scotland alone and 4,000 jobs across the wider UK maritime supply chain until 2035.

A crucial part of our defence system is MOD procurement, with military equipment provided by companies such as Typhoon International, which makes dry suits and lifejackets for military divers, and First Choice Labels in Kirkleatham, which kindly provided social distancing floor stickers to businesses during the pandemic. May I invite the Secretary of State to Teesside to visit these great local British businesses and see for himself the high-quality military equipment and supplies that we produce in Redcar and Cleveland?

I would be delighted to come over to Redcar to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. He highlights the real importance of the supply chain in any defence product. It is not always the big primes, although they often get the attention; it is all the little and medium-sized companies that string along behind that often supply the real detail behind the bids.

I thank the Defence Secretary for his welcome to my hon. Friend the new Member for Batley and Spen (Kim Leadbeater). I will ensure that his kind remarks are known to her.

The Prime Minister has promised an extra 10,000 jobs in defence each year for the next four years. Buying British is the best way to deliver that promise so that we design and build for ourselves in Britain: it strengthens our economy and it strengthens our sovereignty. The defence equipment budget is now £19 billion. What proportion goes not to Britain, but to US suppliers?

Many suppliers in this country may not be entirely UK in their country of ownership, but the Ajax, for example, is made in St Athan by General Dynamics, and Boxer is made in Shropshire by a combination of BAE and the German Rheinmetall. We often insist that a significant proportion of those projects are made in the UK: for example, over 65% of the Boxer vehicle’s components are UK-made, including the metal frame made in Stockport. That provides British jobs, even if sometimes the countries of ownership are international. It is important to have international components because, as hon. Members have mentioned in previous questions, we also want to sell abroad. If we shut everyone else out, we should not be surprised if they do not buy from us.

The Defence Secretary ducks and dives to avoid the answer, but the highly authoritative Defence Analysis has the figures: 31% of Britain’s defence budget now goes to US suppliers, up from 10% only five years ago. Britain can make the best, but it requires the Government to give it backing. In the past month alone, the Defence Secretary has rejected the world-leading UK-built Brimstone missile and bought US instead. Is it not the truth that Ministers are making big promises to UK industry while the big money still goes abroad?

The truth is that the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to understand defence procurement or how things are manufactured. For example, 15% to 20% of the global components for all 3,000 of the F-35 aircraft—the rear part of the aeroplane—are made in Lancashire. Many of the highly complex, highly expensive defence projects are a collaboration. Typhoon is often championed on both sides of the House: that is an international collaboration between Spain, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. When the right hon. Gentleman mentions the word “supplier”, he is of course deliberately confusing that with the actual number of jobs and the ownership of their business. Let us ask the question: how many people are working on American companies’ business but based in the UK? He will find that most of them are here in this country.