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Rotary Wing Enterprise

Volume 745: debated on Monday 19 February 2024

The rotary wing enterprise programme seeks to improve aircraft availability across support solutions for Apache, Chinook, Merlin and Wildcat from within existing budgets. It will do so by driving synergies between platforms, modernising support solutions and pursuing delivery-focused commercial mechanisms.

Mr Speaker, as you know, Fleetlands in Gosport has been the home of military helicopter maintenance for more than 65 years. This highly skilled engineering work is really key to levelling up the area, providing much-needed jobs and opportunities. Does the Minister agree that the MOD’s rotary wing enterprise and new medium helicopter programme would benefit greatly from these generations of expertise and skills right there in Gosport?

I know from my recent visit that my right hon. Friend is a champion not only for defence in her constituency, but for defence jobs in particular. She is right about StandardAero Fleetlands, which is a valued actor in the maintenance of our rotary wing platforms. The rotary wing enterprise is due to enter its detailed design this year. As part of that, it will consider wider social value, including the extent to which economic prosperity is supported. But as this is a specific potential procurement, I cannot comment any further. I also cannot comment on the role of particular companies in the new medium helicopter programme, but we hope to say more on that very soon.

The Government have delayed producing the information required for the invitation to negotiate for the new medium-lift helicopter four times since September 2022. Can the Minister explain what has caused this 18-month delay? Given the reports last week about his Department freezing capital spending until at least the new financial year, when will the Government get their act together to get this competition under way? Can he promise that the delay will not push back the delivery date for this vital capability for our forces?

I am pleased to say two things to the hon. Lady. First, we will have the announcement on the next stage of the new medium helicopter very soon. I am also pleased to confirm that we have been clear on our spending position. To echo my right hon. Friend the Minister for Defence People and Families, if the hon. Lady wants to talk about stuff that is rumoured in the press—we do not have those sorts of capital spending controls—can she confirm whether the shadow Chancellor will honour our defence spending commitments?