It has been a busy week for defence issues in Westminster this week all starting with the last Defence Questions before the summer recess on Monday, a Westminster Hall Debate on the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the Conservative Leadership candidates highlighting their defence spending plans.
There was a wide array of topics up for discussion when MPs got their chance to question the Ministers from the Ministry of Defence this week. Defence spending has moved up the political agenda following with Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt both highlighting their spending plans where they to become Prime Minister. MPs questioned the Minister on their commitment to SME spending and overall procurement.
These issues are of importance to ADS and its members as the UK defence industry contributes significantly to the UK’s national security and economic prosperity. ADS continues to work in collaboration with Government to ensure procurement decisions clearly and consistently consider the export potential of capabilities and delivers economic benefits to the UK.
Defence spending will remain high up Parliament and the wider political agenda next week as on Tuesday 16 July with a Westminster Hall Debate on ‘defence spending’. The Defence Select Committee Chair, Julian Lewis MP, confirmed that the Committee will publish an updated report on defence spending sometime next week. Dr Lewis believes that there could be a short window of opportunity to persuade the new Prime Minister on the importance of defence spending and the Committee will help to influence them.
National Shipbuilding Strategy
Also in Defence Questions on Monday Fleet Solid Support Ships was a much-discussed topic. Many Labour MPs questioned the Government’s decision to allow non-UK bids into the final three to win the contract to build the new ships. MPs questioned Ministers about what weighting was being put on prosperity in the awarding of the Fleet Solid Support ship contacts, which the Minister took the opportunity to highlight the opportunities for the UK supply chain in all contracts.
On Thursday there was a Westminster Hall on the National Shipbuilding Strategy following on the key theme in Monday’s Defence Questions. MPs on all sides throughout the debate discussed issues with UK sovereign capability and if the country is going to retain its own sovereign capability and how the Government need to invest in it to retain important jobs and skills within the UK economy.
The contracts for the Fleet Solid Support ships were central to this debate too with MPs from all parties urging the Government to exclude international companies from the contract to build the new ships. In response, Minister Stuart Andrew MP argued that restarting the process at this late stage “would not be helpful” for the UK’s capabilities. The Minister further highlighted that the Government believes involving international competition helps to drive greater efficiency in UK industry.