Dr Julian Lewis: As the Minister knows, the Defence Committee is quite worried that not enough is being done to protect the defence industrial base. In advance of his appearance before us on 21 May, when we will look into some of these subjects, can he tell us how much consideration is given to the knock-on benefits of investing in production in the UK rather than buying off the shelf, given that the money spent is then channelled back into the British economy?
[The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Stuart Andrew): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his intervention, and I say with some trepidation that I am looking forward to appearing before his Committee in a couple of weeks’ time. He is absolutely right to raise that important issue. We are doing a tremendous amount of work across the Department, and a lot of it is of course the focus of the fantastic report by our right hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne) on the important prosperity that the defence industry can bring. We are also engaging a lot with small and medium-sized enterprises around the country to encourage more of them to take part in many of the competitions, and to ensure that they do more business with defence. Wherever we build new platforms, we are encouraging wider prosperity among those in the supply chain in the United Kingdom.
I know there has been some controversy about some of the platforms we are buying from overseas, but we are working with these industries to ensure that they work closely with the UK supply chain, so that we can increase the prosperity that comes about because of the platforms we are buying. For example, Boeing recently took a lot of SMEs over to the United States to talk through how they can bid for business from that company. Of course, Boeing has made investments in this country, but we want to see even more of that happening, and I will be happy to develop a bit more of that when I come before my right hon. Friend’s Committee.]