CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

PRIME MINISTER – ABOLITION OF DESO – 12 December 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Which Ministers he consulted before he took the decision to abolish the Defence Export Services Organisation.

The Prime Minister (Mr Gordon Brown): First of all, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our profound condolences to the family and friends of Sergeant Lee Johnson of 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, who was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday. We owe him, and others who have lost their lives, a deep debt of gratitude.

On changes in the defence exports organisation, I can tell the House that we have separated the awarding of export licences from the promotion of defence exports. The Secretaries of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Defence, and Foreign Affairs were all consulted. As the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform announced yesterday, there will be a separate defence and security group within UK Trade and Investment. It will recruit seconded staff from the Ministry of Defence and it will be ready to expand its sales by drawing on UKTI's links with up to 100 countries.

Dr Lewis: I entirely endorse what the Prime Minister said about Sergeant Johnson.

One name was missing from the Prime Minister's list of Ministers consulted – that of Lord Drayson. Is not it a fact that he was not consulted, and did not give his approval for this disastrous change? Is not that why that excellent ex-Minister now prefers to spend his time going round in circles on a motor racing track, rather than doing the same thing as a member of this hopelessly failing Government?

The Prime Minister: As everybody knows, Lord Drayson remains a member of our Business Council for Britain. He left the Government for personal reasons that I hope that everybody understands. As for the defence exports organisation, I think that the hon. Gentleman should agree that it is right to separate the awarding of export licences from the promotion of defence exports. It is also right that the defence exports organisation, which operated in only 19 countries, is now able to draw on the expertise of UKTI, which operates in 100 countries. Defence exports will benefit, as the head of British Aerospace acknowledged in a statement only yesterday.

[To view this exchange, click here.]