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Defence Jobs

Volume 743: debated on Monday 8 January 2024

Mr Speaker, I hope that you and all your staff had an enjoyable Christmas and new year break. I confirm that the most recent estimate shows that Ministry of Defence investment supports 209,000 jobs in industries across the UK. We continue to support UK businesses through direct procurement of equipment and services, supply chains and exports, and—investing in the future—through research and development.

Blwyddyn newydd dda—happy new year, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister outline investment at RAF Valley to date as part of the recapitalisation of the MOD’s military flying training system and its local impact? Will he accept my invitation to visit RAF Valley, which is the largest skilled employer on Anglesey, where he will receive a warm Welsh croeso?

My hon. Friend was a constant champion of nuclear during my previous job, and I am glad she is carrying on that form in defence. I would be delighted to accept the invitation. In addition to RAF Valley being important for military flying training, it is important economically as the second-largest employer on the island. In the past 18 months, we have announced investments of £175 million in a new training facility for the Texan, and £600 million for Hawk T1 and T2 engineering maintenance, underscoring our ongoing commitment to investment in jobs and skills at RAF Valley for many years to come.

In May, the MOD admitted that just 4% of the steel used to construct Type 31 frigates was sourced from UK steelyards. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that British warships are built in British shipyards by British workers using British steel?

Is a very good and important question. As the hon. Lady knows, sourcing steel is primarily a decision for our prime contractors who lead on procuring those platforms. To take the example of Type 26, I believe that almost 50% of that is UK-sourced, so it varies according to needs and requirements, but we encourage our prime contractors to use UK steel where possible and practical.

One decision that my hon. Friend could make to support defence jobs is to retain HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. Will he reassure the House, the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy and the armed forces that these two vital ships will be kept in operation and not mothballed?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who speaks with great authority from all his time on the Defence Committee. No final decision has been made on those platforms. I know that there has been much coverage in the press—and, inevitably, chatter—and I know how important they are to our service personnel. I reassure him that we are looking at this in the round. We are absolutely committed to supporting defence jobs across the piece. Obviously, we have recruitment challenges, but we must also support British industry, and that is why the Secretary of State is leading on that in his role as shipbuilding tsar.

Mr Speaker, I wish you and all right hon. and hon. Members a happy new year.

Northern Ireland is an integral part of the defence company supply chain, and I am keen to ensure that we in Northern Ireland have all the opportunity that there is on the mainland. What discussions has the Minister had with defence companies in Northern Ireland such as Thales on securing further employment in the defence sector?

I can confirm that I held my first small and medium-sized enterprise roundtable in Larne in Northern Ireland, where I met a number of Northern Ireland SMEs, which are integral to our industry. Just before Christmas, I met Thales, which is responsible for the NLAW and a number of other important munitions that have been used in Ukraine. That underlines the importance of supporting our British armaments industry.