DEFENCE – MARITIME SURVEILLANCE – 7 February 2013

[Sir Gerald Howarth: ... I said to the Prime Minister on the day I was relieved of my responsibilities ... I had not met a Conservative in the country who believed that it was right to ring-fence overseas aid and cut defence. I hope that the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife [Thomas Docherty] can agree on this. I do not like disagreeing with him; I am just not a fan of his right hon. friend [Gordon Brown]. ...

Dr Julian Lewis: He did stop us going into the euro.

Sir Gerald Howarth: Yes, he did. I have been searching for something positive to say about the hon. Gentleman’s right hon. Friend, and I am happy to say that he was right about that.]

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Dr Lewis: I apologise to the Minister and to other right hon. and hon. Members for coming late to the debate. I was serving on the Justice & Security Bill Committee, which has only just finished. Given that so much money was sunk into this project and that considerable technological advances were made for the equipment that was to be carried on the Nimrod, will we still get the benefit of that advanced technology development for possible use in future programmes?

[The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Andrew Robathan): My hon. Friend asks a good question, but I am afraid that I cannot answer at this moment. I will write to him and let him know but, certainly, technological advance does not go away – it has happened. We have not been idle in dealing with the consequences of the decision. Revised plans and operating procedures are in place for other platforms to mitigate the absence of a maritime patrol aircraft capability. I will not go into too much detail, as some things are classified, but we can request support from allies and partners if necessary and we have established a seedcorn initiative to maintain the skills and knowledge necessary to operate maritime patrol aircraft in the future, should circumstances change. I was in New Zealand last year and saw some of our RAF personnel who were taking part in the seedcorn initiative. They said it was extremely valuable, and I thought it also sounded like a pretty good posting.]