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Employment: Defence Expenditure

Volume 721: debated on Tuesday 12 October 2010


Tabled By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many jobs in the United Kingdom are sustained by defence expenditure.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare a number of shareholdings in companies benefiting from defence spend.

My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of: Trooper James Leverett, the Royal Dragoon Guards; Private Thomas Sephton, 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment; Bombardier Samuel Robinson, 5th Regiment Royal Artillery; Marine David Hart, 40 Commando Royal Marines; Major James Bowman, 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles; Lieutenant Neal Turkington, 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles; Corporal Arjun Purja Pun, 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles; Marine Matthew Harrison, 40 Commando Royal Marines; Marine Jonathan Crookes, 40 Commando Royal Marines; Sergeant David Monkhouse, the Royal Dragoon Guards; Senior Aircraftman Kinikki Griffiths, 1 Squadron RAF Regiment; Staff Sergeant Brett Linley, 11 Explosive Ordnance Disposal Regiment, Royal Logistics Corps; Corporal Matthew Stenton, the Royal Dragoon Guards; Lance Corporal Stephen Monkhouse, 1st Battalion Scots Guards; Sapper Mark Smith, 36 Engineer Regiment; Lance Sergeant Dale McCallum, 1st Battalion Scots Guards; Marine Adam Brown, 40 Commando Royal Marines; Lieutenant John Sanderson, 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment; Rifleman Remand Kulung, 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment; Sapper Darren Foster, 21 Engineer Regiment; Sapper Ishwor Gurung, 69 Gurkha Field Squadron, 21 Engineer Regiment; Lance Corporal Jordan Bancroft, 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; Lance Corporal Joseph Pool, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland; Captain Andrew Griffiths, 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; Kingsman Darren Deady, 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment; Sergeant Andrew Jones, Royal Engineers; Trooper Andrew Howarth, Queen’s Royal Lancers; Corporal Matthew Thomas, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; Rifleman Suraj Gurung, 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles; and Sergeant Peter Rayner, 2nd Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment.

I turn to my noble friend's Question. The last available information, published in UK Defence Statistics 2009, estimated that 300,000 full-time jobs in the UK were supported by Ministry of Defence expenditure and defence exports: 155,000 directly and 145,000 indirectly. In addition, the MoD employed 177,840 service and 85,850 civilian personnel as at 1 July 2010.

My Lords, first I join these Benches in the earlier tribute, and also send the condolences of the whole House to the relatives and friends of Linda Norgrove.

I thank my noble friend for his Answer. David Cameron described the defence budget as,

“the biggest mess I've inherited as Prime Minister”.

The highly irresponsible decision of the previous Government to order the two aircraft carriers, recently and sarcastically described in the media as “HMS Unaffordable” and “HMS Impecunious”, when the MoD was effectively bust and before a defence review, has clearly skewed the current SDR, making it now even more financially rather than strategically focused. Will my noble friend tell the House whether defence contractors have been helpful in modifying or waiving their penalty clauses, given our overall national financial situation; and will he confirm the promise that we will get a defence industrial strategy by the first quarter of 2011?

My Lords, the MoD's key suppliers have been working with the department on a commercial basis, looking at ways to improve innovation and cost reduction across the board in support of the SDSR. With regard to the second part of my noble friend’s supplementary question, I confirm that we are developing a new defence industrial and technology policy that is intended to replace the previous defence industrial strategy. We will launch this process on 2 November this year in an event co-hosted by ADS, the industry’s representative body, and there will be a Green Paper by the end of the year. After a formal consultation period in the new year, we will publish a White Paper next spring that will set out our industrial and technology policy for the next five years or until the next SDSR.

My Lords, from these Benches I join the Minister in paying tribute to all those who have lost their lives serving our country since the House met before the recess. For the families, there is overwhelming grief and sorrow at their loss and the pain of separation but also in each case pride at the brave and committed service given by the loved one they have lost. Our thoughts and prayers are with those bereaved families and with the colleagues and friends of all those who have died.

The Secretary of State for Defence in this self-proclaimed transparent Government appears to have written a secret letter to the Prime Minister on a matter of real public interest—namely, whether our Armed Forces will in future have the resources to continue to carry out the commitments we expect them to undertake. Does the Minister agree with his Secretary of State’s concerns that the strategic defence and security review is not really a genuine review of defence and security strategy but is instead everything to do with the Conservative Government’s spending review aimed at cutting costs, with inadequate regard for the consequences for private sector jobs in our industrial base and for our Armed Forces and their continuing ability to meet the onerous responsibilities we place upon them?

My Lords, this is not just a Conservative Government; we are in coalition with the Liberal Democrats—

In my department, that is working very well. The noble Lord mentioned the leaked letter. This was a private letter between the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister, and for that reason and because it was a leak, I cannot comment. Both the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State are acutely aware of the sensitivities of such a review—a review made necessary because of the huge deficit that we have inherited and because there has been no defence review since 1998. However, I assure the noble Lord that this is not a crude cost-cutting exercise; it is a genuinely strategic review. We will establish clearly what the defence contribution to our security posture should be and structure our Armed Forces accordingly.

My Lords, during a strategic defence review, would there not be consultation with allies, with the academic world and think-tanks, and indeed with industry? Why has that not happened? Why has there been only one meeting of the Defence Industries Council since the election? How can you possibly take account of industries’ perceptions and views of, and insights into the future of, defence technologies and so on if you hold a consultation with them only after the review is completed?

My Lords, we have consulted a number of foreign countries which, indeed, have made representations to the SDSR. I know that the noble Lord is interested in France, which has, as an example, done that. Turning to industry, we understand how dependent localised economies are on the defence industry and we have engaged very widely with industry in this review. We invited and received submissions from industry and think-tanks, as well as from colleagues from defence establishments overseas.

Will my noble friend accept that he should take no lessons from the previous two noble Lords who spoke on this subject? Anyone who is familiar with the current defence situation knows that the way that the defence budget was left was a disgrace. Given the problems that the present Government now face in bringing some order out of the unfunded chaos that was left behind, he has everyone’s reasonable support at a critical time when we are at war in Afghanistan and when our forces need every support that they can get. My noble friend will have all reasonable support from reasonable people in tackling a very difficult situation.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that support. There will be painful changes and in some cases reductions, but I am very positive about the outcome. We have wonderful men and women in our Armed Forces and I have been hugely impressed by the dedication, commitment and innovation at work in the department. I have no doubt that, when the final decision is taken by the NSC, the country will come out of the SDSR with more adaptable, efficient and affordable Armed Forces, which are configured for 2020 and beyond.